D.C. bookstore finds a unique way to stay open amid mass coronavirus closures

Bookstore serves readers amid mass closures

A Washington, D.C., bookstore has found a way to keep readers entertained while still being mindful of social distancing. From the outside, it looks as closed as many other shops on the street, but if customers make an appointment, they can have all three floors and thousands of volumes to themselves.

Kyle Burke said he and the other co-owners of Capitol Hill Books were looking for a way to support their five full-time employees during the coronavirus lockdown. They began offering online appointments during which a customer, using gloves and hand sanitizer, could peruse the store for up to an hour, with no more than four people at a time. The first day they were posted, the private sessions completely booked out.

"Our sales are definitely off a little bit from what they normally would be, but it was just enough to keep us viable," Burke told CBS News' Christina Ruffini. 

The staff even took a creative approach using current events, offering a curated, quarantine collection that contained everything from "Chairman Mao's Four Minute Physical Fitness Plan" to "The Count of Monte Cristo." 

"Great for isolation, because the main character, Edmond Dantes, is in the Chateau d'If for six years by himself," Burke said about the latter book selection.

Two local residents, Alex Stark and Andrew Lieber, said they jumped at the chance to safety browse the cluttered bookstore and leave their small, shared apartment.

"Books can be a really incredible learning experience but also a great way to escape and travel around the world and learn new things. And that's especially nice when you don't have that much stimulation or access to the outside world," Stark said.

The roommates made an eclectic selection and went home with a backpack full of distractions by the end of their hour-long appointment.

"I worry, but I also feel pretty confident that folks are kind of coming together," Stark said. "It seems like a really difficult time, but we'll get through it."