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My Economy

A Los Angeles bookstore owner on reinventing her small business during the pandemic

Daisy Palacios Oct 12, 2020
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Celene Navarrete, left, and Chiara Arroyo, owners of LA Librería in Los Angeles. Sergio López Valero/Courtesy of Celene Navarrete
My Economy

A Los Angeles bookstore owner on reinventing her small business during the pandemic

Daisy Palacios Oct 12, 2020
Heard on:
Celene Navarrete, left, and Chiara Arroyo, owners of LA Librería in Los Angeles. Sergio López Valero/Courtesy of Celene Navarrete
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My Economy” tells the story of the new economic normal through the eyes of people trying to make it, because we know the only numbers that really matter are the ones in your economy.

Celene Navarrete first met her business partner Chiara Arroyo at a book fair for their children’s school.

“Chiara is from Spain and I’m from Mexico, and our children go to a bilingual program here in Los Angeles,” said Navarrete.

They both expected to find many books in Spanish at the book fair.

“But that was not the case. And it was very disappointing for us,” she recalls. “So, we decided to take action.”

That is when LA Librería, a Los Angeles bookstore that specializes in imported children’s books from Spanish-speaking nations around the world, was born. Navarrete and Arroyo travel to Latin American countries and Spain to find authentic Spanish-language children’s books. They carefully select books that resonate with kids and young adults in the United States and bring them back to stock their shelves.

“LA Librería is more than a bookstore,” said Navarrete. “It is a cultural hub, where people connect with other families that are raising bilingual children.”

Prior to the pandemic, they would host events at the store and bring some of their books to book fairs in different schools. But all of that has changed. Their storefront has been closed since March, and they have not been able to attend any in-person book fairs.

“We have to reinvent the way we work with our community, with our customers,” said Navarrete. “People that come to this store are looking for the in-person experience, the same thing for the people that buy a book from us from the book fairs. So, this has been very, very challenging.”

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COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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