An iconic bookshop in Paris has appealed for support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Shakespeare and Company has experienced a sharp downturn in business, a situation that won't be helped by lockdown measures in which bars, restaurants and non-essential businesses will remain closed in France until 1 December.
The landmark store has seen sales fall 80% since March, and it explained in an email to customers that it is currently struggling and operating at a loss. Located on the Left Bank, the store usually draws plenty of visitors to its nooks and crannies, which overflow with new and secondhand English-language books. Readings by emerging and illustrious authors regularly take place, and the bookshop is famous for nurturing writers.
The late American-born George Whitman opened the bookshop in 1951 and it was originally called Le Mistral. He changed it to Shakespeare and Company in April 1964 on the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth in honor of a bookseller he admired, Sylvia Beach, who’d founded the original store of that name in 1919. Her store was a gathering place for the great expat writers of the time, like F Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, TS Eliot and James Joyce, as well as leading French writers.
George Whitman endeavored to carry on the spirit of Beach’s shop, and it quickly became a center for expat literary life in Paris. Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Anaïs Nin, Richard Wright and James Baldwin were among early visitors to the shop. An estimated 30,000 young and young-at-heart writers and artists known as 'Tumbleweeds' have slept on its couches overnight in exchange for stacking shelves, including Sebastian Barry, Ethan Hawke and Darren Aronfsky.
The popular store is now run by George's daughter, Sylvia Whitman, and it has appealed to customers to support it through buying a tote bag, placing an online order for a book or gift or purchasing a gift voucher for future use. Fans can also subscribe to a "Year of Reading," where they will receive 12 books selected and introduced by the store's team of booksellers, accompanied by treats and personalizations. You can check out Shakespeare and Company's website here.
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