Gilroy bookstore hopes for another chapter

BookBuyers offering gift certificates during COVID-19 closure

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Hotranatha and Punita Ajaya are the owners of BookBuyers in downtown Gilroy. File photo

It’s been three-and-a-half years since BookBuyers opened in downtown Gilroy after two decades in Mountain View.

The 9,000-square-foot store, with its inventory of more than 300,000 books spanning every genre the mind can imagine, is run by husband-and-wife owners Hotranatha and Punita Ajaya, and a handful of dedicated volunteers. In the age of online book-buying and e-readers that has decimated small-town bookstores, the resiliency of BookBuyers is a miracle in itself.

Now, the Ajayas are hoping for another miracle.

The bookstore closed its doors temporarily on March 15, just a day before Santa Clara County enacted its stay-at-home order to battle the spread of COVID-19.

Despite a passionate clientele, BookBuyers was already in a precarious financial situation before the pandemic hit.

“We probably need to more than double our income to stay in business,” Hotranatha Ajaya said. “This is very serious. We really want to see Gilroy have this bookstore.”

The Ajayas are thankful to have a landlord that understands their situation. But even if the country reopens for business by the beginning of summer, the impact of COVID-19 will still be felt for years to come.

Ajaya said the bookstore could provide gloves and masks to customers once it reopens. But its primarily elderly customer base, which might be leery of the virus’ remnants, could be slow to return.

Because BookBuyers is a used bookstore, it doesn’t have a readily accessible inventory, and instead relies on foot traffic to browse its shelves.

“How are we going to keep the store open?” he said. “It’s a pretty challenging thing to think about.”

What is certain, though, is the passion customers have for BookBuyers.

“Everybody that comes in really appreciates having a bookstore,” Punita Ajaya said.

Her husband agreed.

“It’s wonderful how people love the store,” he said. “It’s very gratifying to hear that.”

In the meantime, customers can support BookBuyers by purchasing gift certificates. Certificates can be purchased by credit card by calling 408.767.2929. Customers need to leave a voicemail, as messages are checked regularly.

Even with an uncertain future for the store, the Ajayas remain hard at work because of their love for books.

“I’m 77,” Hotranatha Ajaya said. “I certainly don’t want to retire yet.”