A Fresh Start to Avoid the Day

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 Avoid the Day is turning a new page. After deciding to temporarily close the storefront in December, the owners of the local bookstore and café are ready to reopen their doors to offer a literary escape once again on Friday, March 26. And this time, there will be wine.

When local husband and wife, Jianna and Jason Heuer, fulfilled their dream of opening a bookstore in Rockaway in February 2020, factoring a pandemic into their business plan just a month later was the last thing they expected. Six weeks after opening, the Heuers were forced to close their storefront for Avoid the Day Bookstore & Café and find alternative ways to try to sustain their brand new business. They tried putting their stock online and offered shipping, curbside pick-up and local delivery, and as conditions improved during the pandemic, they were able to reopen the storefront to some extent, but something was off.

After all, the true charm of the bookstore experience was missing. “The magic of a used bookstore is in the browsing. Happening upon a book you have always wanted, or never knew about, at a fantastic price because it comes to you having already been loved by someone else,” Heuer said. “The comfort of a local cafe is in knowing the owners who in turn know your name, are interested in your story, and greet you with a genuine smile. A space for the community is built for people to meet, fall in love, and have time together where they are comfortable and safe. These are the elements that make Avoid The Day Bookstore & Cafe.”

Trying to keep the store open and adapt to the many challenges wasn’t working.  “This was not financially sustainable,” Jianna Heuer said. “For most of 2020 we tried to innovate and adjust and still find ways that were safe to serve the community but in December we took a look at what we had done up until that point and acknowledged it was not working. We had planned for a few hard years starting a new business in many ways, but the most important one was keeping our day jobs and we decided it was best to take a step back and figure out what to do that would be sustainable while also focusing on our day jobs a bit more.”

The Heuers decided to take a winter break. “It was more expensive to keep the door open than it was to close or ‘hibernate’ for the winter. Many fellow small businesses also followed this tact for the winter months,” Heuer explained. To continue to sustain the business, they decided to put their book stock on Bookshop.org and LibroFM, which Heuer says was successful for what it was. “We have had consistent sales and interest both on our website and via social media,” she said.

Now the Heuers are now gearing up for a triumphant return this Friday, March 26. The reopening coincides with not only some nicer weather, but a reason to say “cheers.” Heuer says, “We acquired our tavern license and will be serving wine and more substantial food when we reopen. We knew the license would be coming around February and we were waiting for warmer weather to come so we could set up an outdoor seating area when we reopen.”

When Avoid the Day reopens, they’ll be offering a selection of wines to enjoy with a good read. “We will have a house Red, White, Rosé, and Prosecco that we will likely change seasonally. We will carry cans (perfect for the beach), bottles, and if you're dining outside- by the glass,” Heuer said. But the full indoor drink and read experience will have to wait. “We will only be doing to-go both for wine and food inside the store until COVID is a bit more under control. We want to be sensitive to our patrons who are just there to browse and not to eat and keep everyone as safe as possible,” she said.

ATD will also offer a selection of coffee and teas for those who don’t want alcohol, and some good local eats to pair with a good book and beverage. “We will be serving baked goods from Fat Cardinal Provisions and Raquel Confections and pizza from Last Dragon Pizza,” Heuer says. Since they launched the store, the Heuers wanted to incorporate local offerings into the café side of their business. “From the start, even when we were just a pop-up, pairing with local businesses has been an important part of our mission. We think when local businesses promote one another and support one another, the economy thrives,” Heuer said.

 While the bites and beverages will be great, as Rockaway’s only bookstore, ATD is still all about the books. “We are first and foremost a bookstore, our cafe offerings are a great addition to enhance one's experience but not the main focus,” Heuer said. Most importantly, ATD will once again be open for browsing and purchasing some of the many titles they offer. And while they won’t be serving food or drinks to stay indoors during regular hours for the time being, they will offer private bookstore experiences for those who want to really avoid the day. Heuer explains these are “experiences where people can book time outside of our regular hours for up to six people to come in and eat, drink, browse, play games, choose their own music, and generally just have a great time. It's like a private literary salon, date night, or family time. A way to get out of the house but do it safely.”

After an unpredictable year and a voluntary hiatus, the Heuers are ready to reopen their doors. “We are looking forward to serving this great community again. We have missed our regulars, meeting new customers, and introducing people to their next favorite book,” Heuer said.

Avoid the Day Bookstore, located at 99-04 A Rockaway Beach Blvd, opens Friday, March 26. Hours will be Wednesday through Fridays, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, check out www.avoidtheday.org.

 By Katie McFadden

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