Competing bookstores help owner keep his shop open during medical emergency

While eBooks and companies like Amazon may be causing an end for some small, independent booksellers, nothing can beat the connection that has formed between store owners, their employees, customers and even competitors.

Seth Marko had to undergo emergency open-heart surgery. His wife, Jennifer Powell, found someone to watch their 3-year-old daughter, and figured she'd have to close their shop, the Book Catapult, while her husband recovered. Their only employee was sick and was expected to be away from his job for at least a week, The Washington Post reported.

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But a friend and competing bookstore owner had an idea.

Scott Ehrig-Burgess had worked at the Book Catapult in 2017 when the shop first opened. He figured he could try to keep the store open as his friend healed.

"I thought, 'I'll pretend this is my store for the week,'" Ehrig-Burgess told the Post.

Then, he started to pass the word around the bookselling community that Marko was ill.

Four other shop owners, some of whom also worked at the Book Catapult in the past, wanted to chip in and help at the store, the newspaper reported.

Eight volunteers kept Marko’s store open and in business while still keeping their own shops running.

Ehrig-Burgess told the Post, “The customers didn’t even know.”

After the first week, the Book Catapult's actual employee recovered from her illness, and she was back on the job. Powell's and Marko's parents also flew to San Diego to help their family, the Post reported.

Volunteers are still helping out, though, because while Marko is home and recuperating, he still can’t lift the heavy stock.