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Indie bookstore Powell’s Books rehires more than 100 employees as online orders soar

A customer browses the shelves at Powell’s Books in 2013.
A customer browses shelves stuffed with books at Powell’s Books in Portland in 2013.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

After laying off more than 300 staff members, Portland’s cherished indie bookstore Powell’s Books has rehired more than 100 of its workers on the strength of online orders, the company’s CEO announced on Facebook Sunday.

“Your kind words, messages of encouragement, ideas for perseverance and orders for books have taken our breath away,” said CEO Emily Powell in a Facebook post. She also announced that the rehired staff were all full time and receiving benefits.

“We’ve made an internal commitment to only pay for expenses that keep folks employed, and the lights on, for the time being,” she wrote. “Right now … our focus is on keeping Powell’s moving, keeping our community healthy, taking care of our wonderful customers and having as many folks working with health insurance as our sales can support.”

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Earlier this month, the bookstore laid off most of its employees and temporarily closed five of its locations as a response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Major indie bookstores across the nation have followed suit, collectively laying off more than 600 employees as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Publishers Weekly.


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