At Sundance, ‘buy local’ is helping, poetry takes to the airwaves

Sundance Books and Music, Reno, NV - photo: Kris Vagner

At Sundance Books and Music, sales of meditation books are trending. Jigsaw puzzles and books with cheery themes are selling well, too. And Samantha Irby’s book of essays, Wow, No Thank You—released on March 31, two weeks after Nevada businesses were ordered to close—is selling remarkably well.

“In a time like now, you wouldn’t think a book release could be very successful,” said Emily Bennett, the store’s events coordinator and marketing manager.

On March 17, the day Gov. Steve Sisolak issued the first statewide social distancing order, Sundance stopped allowing customers inside and began offering curbside pickup. Two days later, when a closure order followed, the store could only sell via phone and web orders. Bennett said that, now, on a given day, two or three staff members come into the store to pack and ship. Pre-pandemic, five or six employees would have staffed the store.

“Sales are definitely lower than usual,” Bennett said. “Although [Wednesday] we had a real banger of a day. It seems to ebb and flow. Some days we’re almost up to a normal day. Some days we’re not.”

Erica London packing books for shipment at Sundance Books and Music – photo: Sundance Books and Music

Bennett attributes the continued flow of business in a season of widespread economic slowdown to two factors. “Amazon isn’t shipping out books as quickly,” she said. The retail monolith posted a statement explaining that it would prioritize shipping of items like household staples and medical supplies, back-burnering shipments of books and other non-essentials.

Also, Bennett said, “People are just taking the message of shopping local, and local businesses are hurting. We’ve had people who’ve never been here call us and say they’ll come in after all of this.”

Sundance usually hosts book and music events year-round, but at the moment its online calendar is blank. There’s one virtual event in the works though. April marks the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month, and usually, for Sundance, that’s a big event. Each year, poet Shaun Griffin leads a poetry reading series at the store.

“We’ve all had to make lemonade out of lemons,” Griffin said in a phone interview. He’s been hosting a radio show about writers and writing on KWNK 97.7, Reno’s community radio station, since October.

“I was getting frustrated because we couldn’t have a poetry month this month,” he said. It occurred to him to re-think the event as a radio series. He’s already recorded the first of four episodes of The 21st Annual Sundance Poetry Series Virtual Edition and plans to air them on the next four Sunday afternoons.

The lineup includes 12 poets from the region and three from out of state. For each episode, Griffin said, “I found four poems that I thought would hang together by theme.” This year, the theme is dictated by the collective anxiety spawned by the pandemic. “This is such a spooky time,” Griffin said. He described the poems he selected like this: “I think they all touch that vulnerable spot in us that’s being touched by the unknown.”

The 21st Annual Sundance Poetry Series Virtual Edition, hosted by poet Shaun Griffin, will air on KWNK 97.7 at 3 p.m. on the next four Sundays, April 19 and 26, May 3 and 10. The show will also be live-streamed at kwnkradio.org.


How to support local bookstores

Purchase a gift card from Grassroots Books.

Help Grassroots Books cover rent, payroll and other expenses with a donation on GoFundMe.

Purchase books online from Truckee’s Word After Word Bookshop and have them shipped or collect them at the door via “no touch pickup.”

Purchase online or by phone from Sundance Books and Music.


Kris Vagner is an arts and culture writer who’s earned awards for critical writing, entertainment writing, feature writing, and—somehow—sports writing. She’s also the editor of Double Scoop, Nevada’s visual arts news site. More at www.krisvagner.com. Support her work in The Ally.