Wednesday, Floody Wednesday

Elizabeth Bluemle - June 27, 2017

“Elizabeth?” said my co-worker, Sandy’s, voice on the other end of the phone. “We have a bit of a situation.”
Every business owner dreads hearing those words, especially on her one day off a week.
While most people hail Saturdays as the start of their weekend, Wednesdays are mine. Occasionally I’ll agree to a sales meeting if I absolutely have to, but I usually try to hold that day sacred. Two weeks ago, I was feeling great on my “weekend” day: I’d just worked out and was having brunch with a friend at a new place about a half hour outside of town. That’s when the phone call came.

It turned out that Sandy had gone to our basement storage space for more bags, and discovered a small flood. She couldn’t find the source of the stream, but it was waterlogging the boxes that weren’t on pallets.
“Start bailing,” I said. “I’ll be right there.”
We had a new summer bookseller, Jake, at work on his first day, and how did he spend it? Hauling soggy boxes of books, teacher giveaways, posters, and holiday decorations. I think it ruined his shoes, and he was too polite to complain. (We are still investigating the state of his shoes.) Whatever his internal feelings, he pitched in like a cheerful champ. His last summer job was working for a tent company, and he said, “Anything beats unrolling moldy rugs with dead mice on them in 95-degree heat.” I can’t argue with that! Still, slogging your way through the musty damp of a bookstore basement isn’t anyone’s dream first day, and we were hugely grateful for his energy.
Once I arrived, I was too busy hauling, sorting, and throwing away to take pictures, but I remembered to take some toward the end of the process.

A few sideways photos from the wayside flood (apologies; I can’t edit rotation here):
The culprit? The building’s rusted-out water heater on the wall outside our space.

The damage could have been much worse. Sandy’s quick action saved a lot of items—including some irreplaceable memorabilia from our 20 years in business—from destruction. My saddest loss? This glorious $250 Times Atlas of the World. Fortunately, we can get another one.

Lessons learned?

  • Pay attention to equipment, even if it’s not one’s own.
  • Put everything in basements on pallets.
  • Don’t skimp on plastic tubs.
  • Check the basement daily – it’s only because Sandy happened to go downstairs for something that she caught it so early.
  • Have a good insurance company (our Nationwide rep was so helpful).
  • Continue to hire great people – my staffers are worth their weight in gold!

4 thoughts on “Wednesday, Floody Wednesday

  1. Peter Glassman

    I can totally commiserate. We had floods twice at our last location — but in this case it was water coming down from above in the center of our sales floor! The first time was due to some workman having left tarps open on the top of our two-story building on a Friday and Saturday we had a nor’easter. The rains were so powerful, they actually lifted the tarps and pulled them to the drains, which the tarps then blocked. But the rain kept coming and water has a pernicious habit of finding its way into a building. An hour after our author event for the day had ended, I noticed a drip coming from the middle of the ceiling. The next thing we knew, it was raining in our store! It seemed the water had flooded the tenant upstairs (who was closed for the weekend) until the water found it’s way through the floor and our ceiling! Fortunately, we were well insured. But it’s a day I’ll never forget!
    Here’s hoping you find the source of your leak and all is well again soon!

    1. Elizabeth Bluemle

      Peter, that’s a nightmare scenario! Which location was that? Was it the one on 18th and 5th (I think) where Schuyler was manager?
      We were so lucky that the water was in our basement storage area and not on the main floor!

  2. Kit Steinaway, Binc Programs Manager

    Elizabeth and Peter,
    We are happy that you were insured and that the damage from your flooding events was not more serious. However, if a bookstore sustains major damage due to a disaster (storm, flood, fire, tornado, etc.), they can now apply to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation for assistance. The Foundation just rolled out a new program intended to assist stores to recover and reopen quickly after a disaster.
    Additionally, if a bookstore is closed due to damage from a disaster, resulting in employees missing work shifts, those employees may apply for a personal financial assistance grant to help pay their household expenses. We want bookstores and booksellers to thrive and not to be sidelined by a disaster.
    You can find out more at

    1. Elizabeth Bluemle

      Hi, Kit. Thanks so much. BINC has been doing so much for booksellers. We notice and appreciate your work!


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