Updated April 21
In two days, Bunch of Grapes, an Island literary institution in Vineyard Haven, raised $55,000 from 506 donors through its GoFundMe page.
The beloved bookstore was the latest small business turning to the public for help amid the coronavirus pandemic. Dawn Braasch, who purchased the store in 2008, posted a GoFundMe asking the community to help her keep the independent bookstore afloat. The appeal for help was posted Sunday morning.
In a text message to The Times on Monday, when donations hit over $30,000, Braasch said she was humbled and grateful for the outpouring of support and generosity.
“I will work hard to prove deserving of that support,” she wrote.
On Tuesday, she added that no decisions on closing the page have been made yet.
In an update on the GoFundMe page Braasch again expressed her gratitude to the community.
“Words truly cannot express how overwhelmed I am by your outpouring of generosity and support. I feel so incredibly grateful to live in a community that shows up in a big way whenever and wherever there is a need. I know there are so many ways that you’re showing up for your communities right now — here on the Vineyard and all across the country — so I’m all the more humbled by the fact that you’ve embraced Bunch of Grapes as a cause worth championing during this unprecedented time,” Braasch wrote. “Please know that your donations will help me pay the bills to our distributor and publishers, allowing us to continue offering online ordering through this crisis. It enables me to pay staff to process those orders and respond to requests, and even to drive books right to your doorstep. It ensures that when the time is right, our doors will be open, our shelves will be full, and our talented booksellers will be back at Bunch of Grapes doing what they do so well. I look forward to reopening and welcoming you all as I work hard to continue to be the bookstore you’ve all so movingly buoyed up these past two days. Thank you.”
People can still purchase books through the store’s website at bunchofgrapes.indielite.org.
In her post Braasch also outlined the troubles that the store is facing as a result of being closed.
“It has been an absolute honor to own the bookstore that holds fond memories for generations of book lovers — year-round Vineyarders, summer residents, and visitors alike — and I’m proud of the work we do and of the reputation the store has held for a half century thanks to its robust offerings, knowledgeable staff, and outstanding author events. It is therefore difficult to find myself in the position of needing to ask for your help,” she wrote in the post. “I’m grateful for the support you’ve shown every step of the way, through every challenge we’ve faced — and the challenges have been many. With the help of countless people — authors, customers, publishers, the Vineyard community — we were able to rebuild after the devastating fire of 2008.”
Braasch went through the history of the store, which included several stops before it moved into its present location at 23 Main St. in 2017. “And we love all the friends and neighbors who continue to support us in our new home. But still, sales have declined each year,” she wrote. “Again, we’ve tweaked, we’ve recalibrated, we’ve thought and thought and worked and worked and positioned ourselves as best we could to adapt to declining sales.”
According to the post, the store has been closed for about a month.
“While we have every intention of reopening once it’s safe to do so, we know that this summer is going to be unlike any that any of us have ever seen. Like many businesses on the Island, we rely on a robust summer season to carry us through the rest of the year,” Braasch wrote. “It’s what allows us to (barely) stay open through the winter and serve the year-round population, and it’s what enables us to stock our shelves with a world-class selection of books and to attract the caliber of authors we do for free events.”
Braasch wrote that it will be difficult for the store to make up for the loss of revenue both by closing and the uncertainty of the upcoming summer season. “This closure and the road ahead are our biggest challenges yet, and I feel uncertain about how we’ll weather it,” she wrote. “We have shortfalls every year during the slow winter months, and I have been able to bridge the gap when needed. That is no longer possible, this gap is too big, and so I am humbly asking you, our book loving community, to help us bridge that gap. Whether you are able to give $5 or $25 or $100 or more, please know that every single dollar is truly appreciated and will help us reopen when the time comes. I am so grateful to live on an Island that appreciates the intrinsic value of an independent bookstore, an island that understands what a different community we would be without one. Thank you.”
Reporter Brian Dowd contributed to this story. Updated to include more comments from Braasch, as well as to update the Island’s response. -ed.