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First Person: Brattle Book Shop's Ken Gloss On How Family Got Him Through The Pandemic

Ken Gloss, the proprietor of the Brattle Book Shop. (Photo: Jeffrey Dunn)
Ken Gloss, the proprietor of the Brattle Book Shop. (Photo: Jeffrey Dunn)

As the country continues to open up, there are many questions about how to make sense of the next stage of the pandemic. But to look forward, we must first look back.

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI: We’ve been reconnecting with guests that we featured on the show across 2020. Ken Gloss was with us last April. He’s an antique book dealer and proprietor of the Brattle Book Shop in downtown Boston. Now, the pandemic forced them to temporarily close the store, only the second time they’ve had to do so since 1825. And here’s what Ken told us last April.

[TAPE] KEN GLOSS: Our business, [there’s] absolutely no question that we’re going to survive this, that we’re going to get through it.

CHAKRABARTI: And this is how Ken reacted to hearing that a year later.

GLOSS: One thing that I’m very happy to say, that it’s a year later and I’m here talking to you, and we’re in business. I’ll tell you, a lot of people are just thrilled that we’re here. We’re thrilled that we’re here.

CHAKRABARTI: Ken’s positive attitude and perseverance helped his store stay open. But it was not without its struggles.

GLOSS: Business was off. And I will say the PPP loans and Massachusetts grants definitely helped. We kept staff on. They’re still working. We’re even maybe over the summer looking to take on some part-time help to give our staff a break because they’ve been working very hard.

GLOSS: I think the hardest part for me was just not being able to go to the movies, not being able to go to shows, not visiting with friends, going out to dinner. It was the social aspects of it. I think it’s the interpersonal connection that’s the hardest part, way beyond sort of the business. And even within the business, it’s not seeing the people you see every week, every day, every time they come to the city. That’s part of the hard part.

GLOSS: And just talking to myself all day, it’d get really boring. You know, I think I’m interesting, but it’s the other people that keeps life active and healthy and vibrant. And making you want to get up every morning. And it also, with this disease, it makes you realize how valuable life and getting back to normal and sort of having that freedom to just smile at people, to hug people, to talk with them.

GLOSS: Now, one of the good things that happened in another sense of 2020 is my daughter had our first grandson. And, you know, there was worries with the pandemic. You know, with my daughter pregnant, we couldn’t go to the hospital to visit and see the birth. I will never look back at 2020 as being a total disaster because I have a grandson. I would not trade having him smile at me for almost anything in the world. And that’s probably the biggest moment of joy. And the other one is that everybody has been healthy that’s really close. We’ve made it through. Business is going to recover. I’m determined. And there’s nothing beyond family in many ways.


In this diary … we hear from:

Ken Gloss, antique book dealer and proprietor of the reopened Brattle Book Shop in Boston.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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