Powell's interior

The interior of Powell's Books, 1501 E. 57th St. 

Powell’s Books will be open for business on Saturday, Nov. 27, after being closed since last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The used bookstore, 1501 E. 57th St., is returning with shortened hours, though managing co-owner Brad Jonas said he has hopes of phasing back the late hours the shop has been known for over the years. 

“We're really sad that we can't be open the same, we used to be open from 9 in the morning to 11 at night, seven days a week,” he said. For now, the store’s hours will be Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Jonas says that they didn’t expect the closure to last as long as it did, hoping initially that they would be able to open this past summer. He said that the arrival of the Delta variant caused the delay, as the owners made their decision based on what they thought was best for customers and staff.

Before closing last year, Powell’s had plans to celebrate its 50-year anniversary in March of 2020. Jonas says he doesn’t know if that will come to pass now, as the focus remains on reopening the store. He also mentioned his excitement for the Obama Presidential Center, saying that it would be good for business with the number of people the landmark will bring to the neighborhood.  

As part of the reopening process, Jonas says that he is really interested in getting feedback from the public, hearing what they want from the store to determine how they operate. 

“Some of it is just trying to reinvent things and figure it out. Because we don't know whether we're going to have a crowd in here, so we're going to learn from our customers what they think they need,” said Jonas, who says he’s received an influx of online comments from locals and others sharing their excitement about the reopening news.

During the closure of its physical storefront, Powell’s shifted its focus to online sales, which doubled from where they were pre-pandemic. Jonas says that most of the online books came from their warehouse, but they have staff putting more books from the 57th location online in order to give people work in the building. 

The bookstore also began offering curbside pickup at the beginning of the pandemic and has no plans to stop the service. 

Powell’s is currently looking to hire employees who are flexible as they work to get back to normal, with Jonas hoping to get the store back to its late-night hours and, eventually, to open up on Sundays again. (Jonas says he worries about losing the late crowd who come over after studying at the Regenstein Library and stay until closing.)

“It's really fascinating watching people that you start to (get to) know,” he said about the advantages of being an employee at the store. “Just really one of the great benefits is being interconnected with customers and knowing what they're interested in, getting stuff out to them.”

(1) comment


I'm so glad they're reopening.

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