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A Bookstore Laid Off Hundreds. Then, This Took Its 'Breath Away'

Powell's, popular indie chain in Oregon, rehires more than 100 workers due to online ordering boom
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 30, 2020 1:01 PM CDT

(Newser) – A popular indie bookstore chain in Portland, Ore., let go most of its staff—more than 300 employees—earlier this month because of the coronavirus outbreak. Now, per the Los Angeles Times, Powell's has hired back more than 100 of those workers, thanks to a surge in buying books online amid the pandemic. "Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for your incredible and unwavering support," company CEO Emily Powell said in a Friday statement, noting that the rehired employees have been reinstated full time with all of their benefits. "Your kind words, messages of encouragement, ideas for perseverance, and orders for books have taken our breath away."

Powell, who conceded "we don't know what the future holds," noted that fulfilling customer orders may take a little longer than usual, "as we take all the necessary precautions to keep everyone healthy." The bookstore's five Portland locations will remain closed for the time being, "as we feel we cannot honor the social distancing guidelines presented by the CDC." Publishers Weekly noted that three well-known indie bookstores around the US—Powell's, NYC's McNally Jackson, and Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC—had all together laid off more than 600 employees as of mid-March. (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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