Odyssey Bookshop launches $60K fundraising campaign to stay afloat

  • Jogi Renze, 7, of South Hadley climbs the stairs of the Odyssey Bookshop during a program held on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Author Sharon Edwards, a lecturer in the University of Massachusetts College of Education, helps Jogi Renze, 7, of South Hadley work on a stop-action movie during a program held at Odyssey Bookshop on Feb. 20, 2020. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • South Hadley kindergartner Chloe Colodner, 5 1/2, and University of Massachusetts College of Education doctoral student Sai Gattupalli, work together on a stop-action movie during a program held at the Odyssey Bookshop on Feb. 20, 2020.

Staff Writer
Published: 4/3/2020 3:21:33 PM
Modified: 4/3/2020 3:21:19 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — Throughout its nearly 60-year history, the Odyssey Bookstore has weathered fires, a flood and economic lows, standing as a fixture of The Village Commons since 1991.

“But now, COVID-19 is putting the Odyssey’s future in jeopardy,” said shop owner Joan Grenier in a statement launching a $60,000 fundraising campaign, which Grenier says is necessary to keep the shop afloat.

The fundraiser, which was posted on GoFundMe earlier this week and launched on Thursday, had garnered over $19,000 in donations as of mid-afternoon Friday. 

“We are just flabbergasted and so grateful for the community support, which is actually coming from across the country,” Grenier told the Gazette on Friday, noting that many Mount Holyoke College alumni, regulars and former customers have been among those donating.

May is typically the shop’s strongest month due to Mount Holyoke College’s commencement and reunion activities, Grenier told the Gazette last month.

But so far, this spring has been anything but typical. In addition to students being sent home early for the semester and commencement being postponed, Grenier said in the fundraising statement, prospective students will not be visiting the campus this spring, further impacting sales. The bookshop has also needed to cancel off-site and in-store events.

“So without a doubt, we face a significant cash flow crisis,” Grenier wrote.

Grenier said that she will apply for grants included in the federal government’s stimulus package to help cover rent, utilities and payroll. But these grants “will not cover all our losses, and we still need to pay publishers, other vendors, and try to continue to support our staff,” she added in the statement.

Grenier said that she and her husband “have already put significant money into the Odyssey and will add more from our personal savings.” 

But, she said, “I’m 68 years old, and I can’t afford to take on the amount of debt that I believe is necessary.”

She continued, “I’m not ready to retire — my dad ran the Odyssey until age 79, and I hope to be here at least that long — but a long-term loan at this stage is not a viable option.”

Grenier’s father, Romeo Grenier, opened the shop in 1963, and Joan Grenier inherited the business in 1991, she told the Gazette around the shop’s 50th anniversary in 2013. The store survived two arsons in 1985 and 1986 before it moved to The Village Commons, after which volunteer efforts helped to get the shop back on its feet.

As she left the store March 17, after it closed indefinitely, Grenier said she thought of all the uncertainty the store faced during those hard times in its history. “I said, ‘I really know how my father felt.’”

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.

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