How Austin's BookPeople navigated a pandemic closure, celebrated a big birthday and prepared for a holiday season unlike any other
Prior to the pandemic, a committee of BookPeople employees were tasked with planning a series of celebrations in honor of the local business' 50th anniversary on Nov. 11.
Instead, the team scrapped its plans and converted the business—which used to do around 5% of its sales online and hosted more than 300 in-person events a year—into an online machine, offering curbside pickup, worldwide delivery and three or four virtual programs a week.
"When I look back, I think that the beginning part of the year is super clear in my mind," Director of Kids Events and Marketing Eugenia Vela told Austonia, recalling the day in March when the bookstore closed its doors temporarily. "But then in the last few months, it's just such a blur."
Now, just over the hill and perhaps feeling a bit more aged than anticipated, BookPeople is preparing for the next 50 years.
In Austin @BookPeople is a community treasure. Please support them by selling out these signed copies of… https://t.co/JneuMOcXZk— Dan Rather (@Dan Rather) 1605556204.0
After local officials announced the cancellation of SXSW in March, BookPeople briefly offered curbside pickup before closing its doors. "It was a sad day because we just didn't know what was coming," Vela said.
Since then, the business has cycled through a partnership with bookshop.org, which offers independent booksellers a way to profit off of online sales, while preparing to reopen for in-person shopping and rebuilding its website to double as an e-commerce platform.
"Suddenly, we were having to do 100% of our sales through our website," Vela said.
Throughout this experience, however, BookPeople has felt the support of its customers, who have tuned in for story times on Instagram Live and committed to shopping local.
Local authors, including Dan Rather, Matthew McConaughey and Austin Kleon, have helped spur sales by donating autographed copies of their books and dropping in—virtually—on their book tours.
"We did see great support," Vela said. "You can't compare it to the 'before times,' really. We're trickling back up there where we used to be."
Despite challenges, including Zoom fatigue, the pandemic revealed silver linings, such as the possibility of a global audience for its online events. Recently, the store hosted a children's story time featuring an author in England.
Another bright spot is the upcoming holiday season, on which the success of local businesses often hinges.
BookPeople is now again open to the public, with occupancy limits and other precautions in place. It encourages customers to shop early to avoid certain pandemic challenges, such as shipping delays and breaks in the publishing supply chain.
"The holidays are so crazy to begin with and then you add a global pandemic," Vela said.
For those hoping to browse in person, Vela recommends visiting the store during weekdays, when patrons are less likely to encounter a socially distanced line out the door.
Online buyers can order directly from the store's new website, which offers subscription services such as BookPeople in a Box—with titles chosen by your local bookseller—and Amplify, which focuses on Black, indigenous and other authors of color.
For now, BookPeople's most popular titles of the year remain in stock. They include McConaughey's memoir "Greenlights"; Kleon's creativity guides; the first volume of Barack Obama's presidential memoirs, "A Promised Land"; and the novels "The Vanishing Half" by Britt Bennett and "Mexican Gothic" by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.
When shopping, Vela cautioned patience, adding that although curbside delivery may seem like an instant service it requires a lot of work on the backend.
"Be kind to retail workers," she said. "That's a free way to support your local business."
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So you want to buy a house?
To anyone trying to get on the "housing ladder," it's been a discouraging couple of years as prices skyrocketed in a market crowded with buyers bidding against each other for just about any available home.
Things may be calming down, with the Austin Board of REALTORS reporting fewer sales and more available homes this summer.
Mortgage rates have more than doubled in the last year, from around 3% to well over 6% on a 30-year fixed rate loan, getting even more of a bump this week after the Federal Reserve raised bank rates on Wednesday.
So how affordable are homes right now? That, of course, depends on what you want and how much you're able or willing to pay, but here are some rough estimates of what a typical buyer would pay to buy a $650,000 home, which would be considered "mid-price" in today's market.
Mortgage banker Chris Holland (NMLS 211033) of Austin's Sente Mortgage ran some numbers for Austonia to illustrate a typical purchase.
Holland says that while the 30-year fixed rate mortgage is often mentioned in the media, the most popular loan that he's seeing now is a 7/1 adjustable rate mortgage, which has a fixed rate for 7 years and then adjusts every year based on market rates, with a limit on how much it can increase each year. The interest is amortized over a 30-year period. Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs) offer lower rates than fixed rate loans.
Here are the numbers, which are examples. In practice, exact numbers vary with a buyer's credit rating and overall financial situation, and with the rate, which can move up or down at any time.
- $650,000 home purchase price
- 7/1 ARM at 5.875%
- 5% down payment, equals $32,500
- 95% financed, equals $617,500
- $4,990 payment, including principle and interest (P&I), insurance, and property tax
- Typically, a borrower's debt to income ratio needs to be at or below 45%. So for this mortgage, a borrower, or borrowers, would need income of roughly $11,100/month, or $133,200/year. That number could be higher, depending on the buyer's outstanding credit balances on things like credit cards and car loans.
Holland says he's had a lot of clients approved for loans who were house hunting but have put that on hold, hoping prices come down.
Camp Fimfo Waco, a brand new camping resort, is kicking off football and fall camping season in style! With top-notch amenities, premium accommodations, and 10 weekends of fall fun, there’s no better place to have a fall camping getaway, especially if you’re a Baylor football fan!
Fall promises to be a one-of-a-kind camping experience. From Sept. 16 to Nov. 24, weekends will be packed with fall-themed activities, including special Halloween weekends in October. Campers can enjoy activities like fall crafts, campground trick-or-treating, costume contests, site decorating, outdoor movie nights, and more!
Packages and Ways to Stay
Camp Fimfo Waco
Located just 5 miles from McLane Stadium, Camp Fimfo Waco is the perfect place to stay during home game weekends. Skip the stuffy hotel room and embrace the great outdoors before cheering on the Baylor Bears! Campers can purchase a Baylor Tailgating Package that includes a pre-game meal from Executive Chef Sean Kelley and transportation to and from the game! Chef Kelley will also be cooking up delicious, elevated tailgating meals near the stadium so make sure to check out The Plaid Plate food truck before the game.
Stay in style and comfort, no matter your camping preference! At Camp Fimfo Waco, there are multiple ways to stay. Red Carpet RV sites come with a concrete pad and patio, full hook-ups, cable hook-up, a charcoal grill, fire ring and fire pit. Back-in or pull-thru options are available, as well as coveted spots tucked along the Bosque River!
Don’t have an RV? Not a problem, Camp Fimfo Waco has cabins too! Book a Riverview Firewheel Cabin if you’re looking for an air-conditioned oasis for the whole family. Complete with a kitchen and private bathroom, this cabin can fit up to 10 people. Elevate your stay by adding on a golf cart or snag a private cabana by the pool for guaranteed shade. With wifi available throughout the park, you can stay connected during your stay!
Amenities and Activities
Camp Fimfo Waco
Camp Fimfo Waco features lots of amenities to fill your days with fun, whether you’re a kid or kid at heart. After challenging your friends to a game of pickleball, basketball, or mini golf, go for a dip in the resort-style, heated pool - open daily through October! Stay on the weekends through October to enjoy the interactive splash playground. With plenty of ways to burn off energy, like the jumping pillow or playground, you can be sure to end the day with a peaceful night around the campfire!
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