Small Business Success Story: The King’s English Bookshop

The beloved bookstore is fighting back against coronavirus by offering virtual story times, contactless pickup and the diverse selection that has made them a Salt Lake City institution.

Nicola McIntosh Jul 15, 2020

This article was originally published on Jul 15, 2020, and refreshed on Nov 3, 2020.

One of the great pleasures for bookworms is browsing the aisles of a favorite bookshop and chatting with employees for recommendations and reviews.

So what happens when a pandemic shuts down your shop? You pivot, like The King’s English Bookshop did, offering virtual story times and adding a drive-up window for contactless pickup.

General manager Anne Holman tells us what makes The King’s English stand out from large online and national book sellers and her tips for other business owner facing challenges.

What do you want people to know about your company?

We would like people to know that all of us at The King’s English Bookshop are booksellers who specialize in matching books to people, rather than just selling them what’s new and “hot.”  

We have been an integral and supportive part of our neighborhood, our community, and our city for 43 years.

sign inside a book store
sign inside a book store

What separates you from your competitors?

We cater to families. We have a wonderful children’s room, daily story hours, activities and a carefully chosen selection of books for children and young adults.

We have seven additional rooms of fiction, poetry, mysteries, speculative fiction and nonfiction of all kinds for adults.

Anyone who loves to read can find something to love at The King’s English, and our booksellers, who read obsessively all over the map, pride themselves on finding the right book for each person.

While our doors are closed, you can call or email or read our newsletter, Inkslinger, for recommendations.

Then drive by to pick up your purchase, have it shipped, or opt for our same-day (or next day, depending on the time you call) delivery.

books inside a book store

How can people help support your small business?

By remembering that when you buy from a locally-owned store, most of the money you spend recirculates in your community, while if you buy the same book at a chain or a nationally owned online company, nearly all of money you spend flows out of state, leaving your community and your local government high and dry. 

What are your top-selling books?

Children’s books are our top sellers followed closely by literary fiction. Right now, humor and mysteries are flying out the door since the need for laughter and for escape are profound. 

What advice do you have for other small businesses facing hardship/challenges?

Our advice is to give your customers every service you can think of while still protecting their safety and that of your staff. And, despite the stress all of us feel, to deliver that service with genuine warmth.

Confer with businesses in your neighborhood or in your own profession when trying to make decisions, or look to organizations such as Local First Utah and the Independent Business Alliance for support.

bookshelves and boxes
smiling man holding a book

How have you pivoted/adjusted your business or business model in light of coronavirus?

When we first bought the gas station that adjoined the store in 1988 and turned it into the children’s room, we dreamed of converting the front window into a drive-by pickup door so it took about 30 seconds to devise an efficient drive-by pickup system. We had already developed a same-day delivery service, run by a sunny and wonderful special-needs young man named Nick and Ricky, his equally friendly caregiver.

Our life online has increased exponentially as well. We have daily picture-book story hour, daily chapter-book readings, various events to help entertain and educate children. 

What was your experience working with your banker and Zions Bank on your Paycheck Protection Program loan and how did it help your business?

Our experience working with Private Banking relationship manager Mark Gurney at Zions Bank was not only helpful, it was lifesaving. He called us with every update, answered all of our anxious queries promptly, and helped usher us through each and every step we took. The result was that we got the money we had applied for with no problems.

As an SBA preferred lender, Zions Bank and its team of relationship managers can help you find the right SBA loan [cite::8030::cite] for your business. Apply for a business loan online anytime or visit a local Zions Bank branch to learn more.

Nicola McIntosh is Social Media manager for Zions Bank.

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