While many people might be getting extra screen time during the pandemic, not everyone is entertaining themselves electronically. Longmont readers are enjoying what they find in the pages of books, many of which are likely to have come from Barbed Wire Books on Main Street.
“During COVID, I’ve been in the store just about every day,” said owner Kathe Heinecken. “Though customers weren’t able to browse shelves, they still wanted to enjoy a good book. I was on the phone with them and I would do research into their past purchases to help them select what to read next.”
As part of her service in recent months, Heinecken would package up orders and leave them for customers at a curbside pickup or bring them directly to customers’ homes.
“I’m still delivering books,” she said. “It’s hard sometimes, but I don’t mind a bit.”
At the same time, Heinecken said in more recent months, customers have still been coming into the store. For them, she disinfects three times a day and is willing to open early for older adults or immunocompromised individuals who want to shop before other customers arrive.
Recent COVID-19 experiences show Heinecken’s dedication to her customers, though they’re just a chapter in a business she founded in 2009. Originally, the 5,000-square-foot space was home not only to books but events such as readings, cowboy poetry and music. It was even the original home of what has grown into Grey Havens Philosophy, a local nonprofit focused on exposing the public to discussion and creative thought, Heinecken said.
Eventually, Heinecken said she felt she had to decide between hosting an added number of cultural community events or retaining the store’s focus on books. She chose to keep the original intent of the store consistent. Now she said the store carries approximately 70,000 titles at any given time, leading to more than $350,000 in annual sales.
Even with this volume, Heinecken makes sure to carry a strong showing of local authors.
“One of the main reasons I have a bookstore is because I wanted to include the books that I thought were important in my selection,” she said. “Even with Amazon as a marketplace, local authors still want to see their book on a shelf. That’s what we’re here for.”
One of those local authors is Longmont Museum Curator of History Erik Mason, who recently published “Longmont: The first 150 Years.” Heinecken said she helped support the book’s concept at its earliest stages and is now selling it at the store. Mason listed the store in acknowledgements in the book.
“It’s a delight to have my book sold at Barbed Wire Books,” Mason said. “Kathe has been a supporter of the idea of the book for a long time and I’m glad to have brought it to fruition with the help of the Longmont Museum.”
Heinecken is grateful for the support of her customers through the years and in the time of COVID. During the pandemic, many of them have gone out of their way to support her through patronizing the shop and buying gift certificates, she said. At the same time, there’s one thing more she’d ask them to do, especially now.
“Just keep reading,” she said. “And encourage kids to read. Some of our best-selling sections are actually children’s and young adult books.
To that end, she expressed concern about how much added screen time kids are experiencing during the pandemic. In an effort to do something to help, she’s created a youth reading cabinet outside her store and has stocked it with free books.
“I have to refill it regularly,” she said. “I’m happy to do it as much as needed.”
Three quick tips to encourage kids to read during the pandemic
In addition to providing a free book cabinet outside of her store, Heinecken recommends three time-tested tips to grow a child’s love of reading:
- Have lots of reading material available on a variety of topics.
- Read out loud to kids. You can start this when they are young, with cuddles and lap time, so they will associate reading with lots of pleasant experiences. If you have older kids, they’ll enjoy out-loud stories as well, she said.
- Model reading for them. If they kids see adults in their life with a book, they’ll be more likely to pick up on the habit.