GOSHEN – Book lovers usually don’t mind being left alone to get lost in a temporary world. COVID-19 with its lockdowns, quarantines and social distancing may have given bibliophiles a chance to browse their personal libraries, but two women from Goshen found themselves halfway through the pandemic, they felt lonely.
So, in an era when people were turning to online shopping, meetings, and groups, friends Maija Walters Stutsman and Aleah Dechant started an online subscription bookbox business, Shelfrighteous, with a book club. Facebook.
âWe kind of started right in the middle of COVID,â Walters Stutsman explained. âWe were both home and alone, and we’re both voracious readers, so we spent a lot of time reading with our kids and alone. We were looking for a way to reconnect, especially with women, during COVID, and the way we connect personally is through the books. “
Walters Stutsman said she and Dechant always talked about books when they got together and gave each other reading recommendations.
âSince we are at home and the internet is pretty much the way to start a business during COVID, we decided to create a subscription bookbox with our love of books,â Walters Stutsman said.
The subscription boxes are delivered quarterly.
Dechant said the box includes a fiction book written by a woman and four to five products from small, female-owned businesses.
âAnd we try to focus on consumable products in one way or another, so that you don’t encroach on your shelves,â Dechant said. âWho needs more stuff? And also, those who are eco-responsible and responsible.
MORE THAN BOOKS
The products can be local or come from all over the United States.
âWe tried to focus on making sure we were supporting our local women-owned businesses, so we started there and have a few stores that we’ve partnered with, and then beyond – from all over the United States. “said Dechant. âSo we just reached out to different people that we found online that we thought were good partners and we teamed up with them to work as well. “
For example, in March, they sent the book âThe Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugoâ by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
Walters Stutsman explained that the book has themes of Old Hollywood glamor, so they included products to reflect that theme.
The box included a sugar scrub from a Michigan company, crayons, note card, headband, and Portland glitter. Each box also comes with a list of discussion questions.
âIf you want to use it for your own book club, you can,â Walters Stutsman said. âAnd we’re also running a virtual book club online through Facebook. “
Online, the group goes through discussion questions, but the duo also play them by ear and answer any questions or discussions that book club members might have.
The box also contains a list of all participating vendors, so if the member wants to purchase something afterwards, “which is what we really hope you will do and support the businesses we have in the box,” Walters said. Stutsman, “you can easily find them online.
The box is not only visual, it includes a music playlist and a recipe.
Regarding the music playlist, Dechant said, âIf you want to put it on when you open itâ¦ or take a bath, for example, summon the whole book straight from your tub,â Dechant said with a laugh. “It’s supposed to be an experience.”
The recipes also reflect the theme of the book. They encourage book clubs to prepare one of the recipes for a meeting.
Walters Stutsman said Common Spirits’ Jamie Hawkins created a custom drink recipe for the latest Old Hollywood-themed box.
âThe character has Cuban roots, so he had a sort of Cuban flair,â Walters Stutsman said. “We try to incorporate a lot of pieces from the book.”
Those who want to subscribe pay $ 49 per box plus shipping and taxes. It’s billed quarterly.
âThe great thing about our membership is that you can take a break anytime,â Dechant said. âWe announce which book will be in the box two to three weeks in advance, so if it’s something you’ve already read ahead of time on your own, you can suspend your subscription so you won’t be charged for. something you’ve already read, because no woman likes it.
And people can also cancel at any time.
ALL THE FICTION
The books are all fiction and include a mix of genres.
âWe will definitely be including a thriller very soon,â Walters Stutsman said. They had fantasy and historical fiction. They also try to include main characters of different ages.
Walters Stutsman in a few months the selection will include an octogenarian.
âWe’re trying to make it something that a lot of different women can relate to,â she said.
Shelfrighteous also offers a box for the youngest. They tend to be provocateurs, like the last box of “Dear Martin” and “Watch Us Rise”, which are all about social justice.
Like adult boxes, it’s not just books included.
âThere are some fun things any kid would enjoy,â Walters Stutsman said. “They are not gender or age specific, I mean it’s in the best interests of your particular child.”
The box includes five products. There are no questions for discussion.
âWe did a survey of our kids at home and they just came out of school and they have no interest,â Walters Stutsman said. The boxes do include a playlist, however.
The response to Shelfrighteous was far more than both women expected.
âWe assumed he would stay pretty much local initially,â Dechant said. âAnd we have shipped to Alaska, Maine, Florida, Texas, California. I mean, we’re all over the place.
In April, Shelfrighteous was even featured on the cable / streaming channel AMC.
Dechant explained that AMC found them online and contacted them to do the interview.
âIt has been a very humbling experience to know that there are so many other people out there looking to connect and support other businesswomen like us,â said Dechant. âIt has been really exciting for us.