PORTLAND - Two years after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the coast, residents and businesses are still picking up the pieces and trying to get back on their feet.
When Harvey hit Portland two years ago, the local bookstore – which had been under ownership of Jennifer Hay since April 1, 2004 – was spared.
Well, the building and its contents were spared, the business not so much.
“The challenge after Harvey, since it devastated the entire county, was that most people weren’t exactly rushing in here to buy books,” Hay said. “And, unfortunately, the bills still needed to be paid.
“So, financially, things were really getting pretty desperate, and I decided that I wasn’t going go down without a fight.”
Hay recalled a post she had read about 10 years before about a bookstore in Indiana that was having financial trouble. In a strange twist of fate, the money she collected in her ‘Lucky Kitty’ (see sidebar) was going to that bookstore.
Hay decided to look him up online and reached out to him to pick his brain and see how he made it through his financial struggle.
“Talking to him, I realized it was feasible,” she recalled. “So, what I did was I formulated a letter that I sent out with my monthly newsletter to my customers.
“I wrote this really nice letter saying Books Ink needs your help, financial help. This is a temporary situation, but the need is immediate.”
She listed all the other businesses in Portland that had gone under and made sure people realized that at the time, the closest independently owned book store was 120 miles away.
She told people they could donate any amount of money and could even buy gift certificates and get 25% off their purchase or join the book of the month club – anything just as long as they helped.
“And there were people I hadn’t heard from in five to seven years that, but because I sent them the newsletter, they walked in here,” Hay said. “It was actually kind of wild.”
Taking a step back a few years ago, Hay had started a support group for caregivers where anyone taking care of a child or parent with a disability could come together at the local Methodist church and just talk. That support group helped a lot of people in the community, and someone never forgot it.
“This one couple came in and it was a crazy busy Saturday,” Hay remembered. “They came in and bought, like, $13 worth of books or something. And they ran up to the counter and asked if I could take a check. I’m like, yeah, sure, no problem. And I grabbed it.
Ready to put it in the register, the girl told Hay to look at the check. “And I looked and it was a $500 check. And I asked, ‘Are you sure?’ and they said, yes, you have done so much for everyone.”
The woman was taking care of a family member and was part of the support group Hay had started.
“So, I think there was a lot of kind of good karma involved,” Hay added.
She also said that a woman from Corpus Christi came in and donated some money because she planned on retiring in two years and expected to spend a lot of her time in Books Ink.
“It makes you feel like you’ve done a lot as a part of the community, and they’re reciprocating it, and that’s important,” Hay continued.
“I’ve always wanted this to be a community spot, so all that was good and it kept me running.
“And I’m still here, two years after Harvey.”