by Edward Nawotka -- Publishers Weekly, 10/6/2008
When Hurricane Ike hit Galveston Island, Tex., a little after midnight September 13, Tim Thompson lost his livelihood. Midsummer Books, the 2,000-sq.-ft. bookstore Thompson had owned since 2004, was completely destroyed. “We had eight feet of water in the store,” Thompson said from his temporary home in Austin. “We left the day before and didn't have time to save anything other than the computer with the stock database.”
Thompson employed a manager and a part-timer, both of whom also evacuated. Though he estimates insurance should cover half of his losses, he will not reopen. “I agonized over the decision. But I was planning on moving the store next summer, anyway, and it's going to take the island months to get back to normal. Business would be terrible.”
He said he will move his family back to Galveston once it is habitable so his children can finish out their school year. After that, he doesn't yet know. As far as the store is concerned, he has had one inquiry about purchasing the name and goodwill, but isn't certain anything will come of it. “For now, Midsummer Books is history,” Thompson said. It was the island's only bookstore focused on new books. Earlier this summer, Hastings Entertainment closed an outlet on the island. Galveston Books, a used bookstore, remains, though it, too, was severely damaged.
Elsewhere in southern Texas, many bookstores were left without electricity, which disrupted business for a week or more. In Houston—where some people are still without electricity even three weeks after the storm—Brazos Bookstore was closed for 11 days and had water damage to a small section of the store. Manager Jane Moser canceled nine events, including one with A.J. Jacobs on September 11, the day before the storm. She estimates lost revenue to be as much as $50,000.
Down the street at Murder by the Book, manager McKenna Jordan and assistant manager David Thompson returned from their wedding in Scotland and Paris honeymoon to find water had seeped through the ceiling and soaked the carpet of the store. Power was out, and Thompson said they bought a generator, which allowed them to keep the store open, even though they had to choose between running the cash register or keeping the lights on. Two events had to be canceled—one with Margaret Cole (who, coincidentally, had her 2005 event at the store canceled because of Hurricane Rita) and another with Brad Meltzer. On generator power, the store still managed to host Don Winslow (who drew 30 people) and Austin writer Joe Domenici, who brought in 50. In all, the store's power outage lasted eight days. “We can't complain too much. We came off so much better than we could have,” Thompson said.
Further west in Houston, author David Ebershoff managed to make it to Blue Willow Bookshop on the day before Ike. “He was fantastic,” said owner Valerie Kohler. “Then we didn't have power for two days. Otherwise, things got back to normal relatively quickly.” The same went for Katy Budget Books. “We closed early the day of Ike and lost power for two days, canceling a pair of events,” manager Stacey Ward reported.
Of the more than a dozen chain booksellers in the region, all Barnes & Noble stores are open again. Borders closed some stores due to power outages. The last two to reopen were a Borders store in Houston (reopened September 25) and a Waldenbooks store in Baytown, Tex. (reopened September 26).