Adapting During COVID-19

By: Ben Blakely

The Lift Bridge Book Shop with a mural art from The Erie Canal, a children’s book by Peter Spier. Pained by artist Richard Akron, the mural is in the process of being restored (Photo by: Ben Blakely)

BROCKPORT, N.Y. — Like many businesses across the country struggling to adapt in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, the unique shops in Brockport are searching for ways to survive. One of those businesses is the Lift Bridge Book Shop.

Founded by Archie and Pat Kutz in 1972, the bookstore became the place for college students to get textbooks and locals to pick up the daily newspaper. After owning the store for 43 years, the Kutz’s decided to sell the shop to John Bonczyk and Cody Steffen. Both were former employees of the shop. Eventually, Bonczyk’s wife Sarah bought Steffen out in 2018 and says it was the right decision for the shop.

Sarah and John Bonczyk obtained full ownership of the Lift Bridge Book Shop in 2018 (Photo via Lift Bridge Book Shops Facebook Page)

“Things had changed so much that it was not sustainable for two families,” Bonczyk said. “We made the transition in hopes of keeping the store going and we are still trying to do that.”

Running the shop has had its ups and downs. During the store’s anniversary in February, the Bonczyk’s sent out an urgent letter to the community explaining they were contemplating closing.  

“We were getting to the point where we had to make a decision if we were going to close in a year or something else,” Bonczyk said. “The two of us wrote the candid letter saying that we appreciate everyone, but we would have to close if business did not pick up.”

The Lift Bridge Bookstore sent this letter to the Brockport community in efforts to keep their business alive (Tweet via @WendyMillsTV).

The response from the letter was overwhelming. The community flooded the store with online and phone orders. One of these loyal customers is Shay Gauthier, who frequents the shop.

“I don’t go nearly as much as I would like to because life is busy, but I usually go a few times a month. I am always in the shop to add to the collection of books that I have at home,” Gauthier said.

In the past, the Lift Bridge Book Shop had an agreement with the Rochester City School District to provide all the textbooks for Rochester schools. However, the agreement recently ended.

“The RCSD ordered books from us for all of its schools and that ended because they opened up the bid nationally,” Bonczyk said. “They took away this emphasis on localism and taxpayer dollars in this county are now going to a large textbook distributor in Minnesota.”

A plastic screen hanging from the ceiling creates a safety barrier for the Bonczyks and their customers (Photo by: Ben Blakely).

Despite these setbacks, the store is committed to staying open. The shop has adopted a curbside pickup option and free delivery throughout the Brockport community. The Bonczyk’s often deliver the orders themselves, brightening up the days of many who have been stuck at home due to the pandemic.

“There is one elderly gentleman that does not have any family in the area who comes and picks up the daily newspaper. And if we do not see him, we know something is wrong and we will go check on him,” Bonczyk said.

Not only are the Bonczyk’s going to customers houses, they provide a hand-written thank you note in every order. And a monthly newsletter is emailed to all customers thanking them for their business.

After being closed for months due to COVID-19, the Lift Bridge Book Shop has reopened for in-store shopping Mondays thru Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The shop has also recently expanded their Friday and Saturday hours from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The animal corner: the perfect place for children to find a new stuffed friend (Photo by: Ben Blakely).

The focus on local businesses in the Village of Brockport has been strong during COVID-19. For the Bonczyks, they are doing everything they can to support their neighboring businesses.

“Throughout the shutdown months, we would make sure we order takeout from rotating businesses. We are not the only ones struggling and we always check on them and share their information via social media to help them,” Bonczyk said.

With the help of the community, the Lift Bridge Book Shop has been able to keep its doors open since 1972. During times of uncertainty, this show of unity is needed now more than ever.



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