A local bookstore has adjusted its model in hopes of maintaining operations during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

When Melia Wolf opened Cover to Cover Children's Books in January 2018 on the Mallway at 2116 Arlington Ave., her vision was to make the store a "magical destination" that fostered lifelong readers.

For two years, her dream gradually was built into reality. She grew a pool of local customers while working to retain those the bookstore garnered for 37 years when it was in Clintonville and run by previous owners Carl King and Sally Oddi.

"Our store is typically filled with children," Wolf said. "We know our customers.

"We like to talk in person and have them tell us their hopes and dreams."

On March 14, three days before Gov. Mike DeWine's order for nonessential businesses to close, Wolf decided to close her store to patrons, many of whom are small children.

She admitted the departure from the typical hustle and bustle of in-store shoppers and reading programs has been as difficult for her and her staff, as has been the loss of business.

Rather than completely shut down, however, the store has transformed from a "magical destination" to a bridge to the world of literature.

"We hadn't done a lot of online sales, except for teachers, but we opened up our sales," Wolf said. "We've become a business that takes phone, email and website book orders, and we're delivering them free throughout the Columbus area."

Wolf gave Bryan Loar much of the credit for the transition.

Loar, Cover to Cover general manager, is the founder of Cbus Libraries, a nonprofit that promotes central Ohio libraries and reading through events and "mobile libraries" that take books and reading resources to area communities.

Wolf said Loar started alternative sales, which in addition to via telephone, email and the business' website, have included providing quick response codes in the store's window that allows shoppers to order items by scanning them with their smartphones from outside.

"Bryan is keeping it afloat," Wolf said. "He's making people happy. He's the bridge builder."

Loar has been the only person working in the store and said he's even talking to customers on the phone as they shop from the other side of the store window.

"At first, this was what we needed to do to continue business if we were going to survive," Loar said.

"But it has become more than that."

Loar said the transition has enabled Cover to Cover to continue to provide a personal touch "to help people discover children's literature," and added that sales have been solid.

"Saleswise, the community has really responded," he said. "We have maintained our levels of revenue.

"It has been fantastic. We're really grateful to the community that's been so supportive."

Local book enthusiast Andra Gillum said the transition to alternative sales has helped her family through the pandemic.

"I would say about the window feature that it's nice to have a place to get outside and walk to," Gillum said.

"I like to get outside and get some fresh air, but my kids like to have a destination in mind when I drag them out for a walk or a bike ride.

"We were able to get some exercise and choose some books. We even saw a few other human beings -- though we stayed 6 feet away -- (and) it's especially nice to support a small, local business during these tough times."

Gillum's 13-year-old daughter, Mia, added, "With the library closed, it's nice to still be able to get books."

Wolf said customer safety and customer service are top priorities, adding that Loar wears a mask and gloves "at all times" as he fills the orders.

"Not having people in the store has been difficult, but Bryan's been our superhero," Wolf said.

"We want people to still be able to enjoy things, like books and birthdays.

"I think it's good to celebrate positive things right now. Hopefully, we can help."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate