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Timothy L. O'Brien

Can Independent Bookstores Survive Covid-19?

The pandemic has hit hard, but more than most shops, they draw strength from community.

A Montclair, New Jersey, cultural hub.

A Montclair, New Jersey, cultural hub.

Photographer: Timothy L. O'Brien

Margot Sage-El had been in business for two weeks at a new location near a train depot in a suburb of New York when the World Trade Center towers collapsed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“On the day of 9/11, people were walking off the train, stunned and covered in dust, and into my bookstore,” she recalls. “Some of them were people I knew, so there was a friendship. But I also think people came into the store because they were dazed and they were seeking other people out. It was beautiful to watch people connecting.”