A bookstore owner needed emergency open heart surgery, and his competitors kept the shop running

The Book Catapult/FacebookThe Book Catapult.
  • In late January, Seth Marko, who owns The Book Catapult with his wife Jennifer Powell found out he needed emergency open-heart surgery, per The Washington Post.
  • At the time, their only employee had the swine flu.
  • Without a staff, they closed down the store.
  • But then one of their competitors – who also happens to be a friend – stepped up to help run the store.
  • It’s very heart-warming.

In late January, Seth Marko found out he needed emergency open-heart surgery, The Washington Post reported. Beginning in 2017, Marko, 43, and his wife Jennifer Powell have run The Book Catapult, an independent bookstore in San Diego, California.

As Marko recovered and Powell, 40, cared for him and their 3-year-old daughter, The Book Catapult found itself with a dwindling staff, as the store’s only employee had the swine flu at the time, The Washington Post reported.

So the couple decided to close down the store, unsure of when they would reopen it.

Enter: Scott Ehrig-Burgess, who set up a GoFundMe for the couple and stepped up to keep the store running.

Ehrig-Burgess and his wife are close friends of Marko and Powell – and he also just so happens to work at Library Shop, a competing bookstore in town.

Read more: Customers at a California doughnut shop line up early every morning to buy out the store so the owner can spend time with his sick wife

Ehrig-Burgess said he had no problem finding people to join him on his endeavour of temporarily keeping The Book Catapult running.

“People were like, ‘What can I do to help? Do you need somebody to be in the store?'” Ehrig-Burgess said. “I called four booksellers and had four volunteers.”

Ehrig-Burgess ultimately got a group of eight total volunteers together – all of whom also worked at competing bookstores in California.

To keep the operation afloat, Ehrig-Burgess would spend mornings at his own shop. Then, at noon, he would head across town to set up a volunteer The Book Catapult. He’d spend the rest of the day checking in on the volunteer, calling once an hour until closing down the store at 6 p.m.

Julie Slavinsky, who works at the book store Warwick’s and volunteered at The Book Catapult, said she was grateful for the opportunity to help her friend when he needed it the most.

“Seth is the guy who is always the reliable one,” she said. “It’s bouncing back to him when he most needs it. It’s nice to see that happen.”

When Ehrig-Burgess visited Marko and told him of the day-to-day operations at The Book Catapult, he was overwhelmed, he told the The Washington Post.

“I probably cried a little bit,” Marko said of the support. “The bookstore is like having a kid. You put so much into it.”

Powell echoed that sentiment. “It’s not really hard to believe that this happened but it’s still heartwarming to see that it did come into place,” she told ABC-affiliated News 10.

Now, Marko is on the mend at home after spending 11 days at the hospital, according to a February 8 Facebook post.

Ehrig-Burgess told The Washington Post that the couple is getting back into the swing of things.”We’re slowly pivoting toward putting it back on them,” Ehrig-Burgess said. “They’re doing 80% now.”

Slavinsky, the volunteer who works full-time at Warwick’s, told The Washington Post that this is just one example of how the book-selling community comes together – even if they are technically competing against each other for business.

“The book world is a little bit different,” she said. “I see this as helping somebody in the community. It’s the community coming together.”

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