Blooming Bookstores

GR’s historical publishing companies continue to thrive amidst recovering economy


Photo courtesy Michelle Hofman

Though business initially declined due to COVID, Baker House Books has seen an increase in online event attendance.

With creative counters, local GR bookstore and publishing company, Bakers Book House and Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, are overcoming the economic dip and virtual-formatting transition. 

Baker Book House, a local bookstore that was established in 1939, initially saw a dip in profit as their in-person store dramatically decreased in customers. According to Michelle Hofman, marketing coordinator at Baker Book House and former editor-in-chief of Chimes, the company had to make staff cuts due to decrease in revenue and extra safety costs. 

BBH implemented a reimagined website a few months before the pandemic hit, streamlining online functions and ease of online orders. This helped the company operate smoothly on a new virtual format; however, issues still surfaced.

Supply-chain strains popped up, and difficulties with the postal service and influxes of online orders swamped staff with work. According to Hofman, there would be around 400 orders one day and only five employees to handle the orders.

Although the store carried out a series of changes for their in-person store experience, such as requiring masks and realigning offices, Hofman does not believe that the customer experience has changed much. Instead of hosting in-person events, they transitioned to a virtual format. “[We saw a] huge increase in online event attendance,” Hofman stated.

They attribute this increase to their dedicated customer base and increase in social media outreach.

Eerdmans faced some challenges with printers due to the increase in printing and operating delays, however, according to Alexis Cutler, publicity associate at Eerdmans, they have adapted. 

“Proactive and cautious” is how Cutler described Eerdmans’ response to the pandemic. After moving to remote work, the company transformed some of their daily tasks. “[We] had to rethink how we do everyday tasks like circulating documents, conducting meetings, and collaborating on projects,” Cutler said.

Eerdmans monitored the pandemic development and enacted precautions in alignment with recommendations from the CDC and Kent County Health Department, putting into place measures such as “disinfecting the office, providing hand sanitizer, cancelling in-person meetings, and eventually requiring all employees to work from home,” Cutler said in an email to Chimes.

The publishing company has had to miss some opportunities that they normally would have participated in, including some at Calvin.

“We look forward to when we can engage with the community in-person again,” Cutler said, “especially at the Festival of Faith & Writing.”