Bookstore Owner’s Competitor Keeps His Shop Running After Learning He Needs Emergency Surgery

Seth Marko and his wife Jennifer Powell have owned the bookstore The Book Catapult in San Diego, California since 2017. All was going well for them until this past January, when 43 year-old Seth learned that he needed open-heart surgery.

During the long recovery process, Jennifer did her best to care for Seth and their 3 year-old daughter. Making things worse was the fact that their staff at the bookstore was dwindling, as their only employee was battling the swine flu.

Seth and Jennifer decided that they had no choice but to close the store, and they were not sure if or when they would be able to open it again. That’s when someone very unexpected stepped in to save the day.

Scott Ehrig-Burgess is a friend of the couple who also happens to own the Library Shop, a competing bookstore in San Diego. Though he wouldn’t directly benefit from The Book Catapult’s closure, Scott stepped up to keep Seth and Jennifer’s bookstore open. He set up a GoFundMe for the couple and found other people to help him keep their store up and running.

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

Scott was able to gather a group of eight volunteers, all of whom worked at competing bookstores in the area, to help him run The Book Catapult. Scott would spend the mornings at his own store, then head over to Seth and Jennifer’s bookstore in the afternoon to set up a volunteer. He would call to check in with the volunteer every hour after that until 6pm to make sure that everything was running smoothly.

Julie Slavinsky, one of the volunteers who also works at a bookstore named Warwick’s, said that she was happy to help Seth.

“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.”

Seth and Jennifer were completely overwhelmed when they heard what Scott was doing.

“I probably cried a little bit. The bookstore is like having a kid. You put so much into it,” Seth said, with Jennifer adding, “It’s not really hard to believe that this happened but it’s still heartwarming to see that it did come into place.”

Now, Seth is recovering at home, and he and his wife are gradually taking over their bookstore again.

“We’re slowly pivoting toward putting it back on them,” Scott said. “They’re doing 80% now.”

Julie said that she was not surprised at what has happened, as the book community always stands by each other.

“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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