Oregon-Based Powell’s Books Rehires 100 Employees After Online Order Spike

The store originally let employees go due to the coronavirus

Powell's Books
Kari Sullivan

Powell’s Books, the iconic indie bookstore based in Iconic Portland, Oregon, has rehired 100 employees after letting them go due to the coronavirus shutdown, according to posts on the retailer’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

“Thanks to your orders on Powells.com, we now have over 100 folks working at Powell’s again — all full time with benefits. Most importantly, we’re working hard to keep everyone safe and healthy,” Powell’s CEO Emily Powell said in a statement. “Doing that work means we have to move a little slower as a company than usual. Please bear with us as we take all the necessary precautions to keep everyone healthy, and get your books headed your way.”

She added, “We’ve made an internal commitment to only pay for expenses that keep folks employed, and the lights on, for the time being. We can’t do that forever — we love our vendors and business partners, and want to support them as well.”

Powell noted that no one knows what the future holds, but the store plans to keep its e-commerce site running smoothly and eventually reopen the doors to the brick-and-mortar locations.

Her Friday statement followed a March 17 letter to employees, which outlined the quick decision to close all of the physical locations of the store for the betterment of the community.

“When we closed our doors, we also closed off the vast majority of our business without any prospect of it returning soon. As a result, we have been forced to make the unthinkable decision to lay off the vast majority of you in the coming few days,” she wrote at the time. “Many people have spoken publicly demanding we pay our employees and extend health insurance for the duration. No one can possibly know how much I wish I could make that happen. We are simply not that kind of business – we run on duct tape and twine on a daily basis, every day trading funds from one pocket to patch the hole in another. We have worked hard over the years to pay the best possible wages, health care and benefits, to make contributions to our community, to support other non-profits. Unfortunately, none of those choices leave extra money on hand when the doors close. And when the doors close, every possible cost must stop as well.”