News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Sisters bookstore fights for survival

One of Sisters’ iconic businesses has launched a crowd funding campaign to raise $75,000 in order to survive the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paulina Springs Books was founded in 1992, and has established a national reputation as a fine independent bookstore and a cultural hub in Central Oregon. But, like most retail businesses in Sisters, it relies on a thriving summer season in order to sustain itself — and that’s not in the cards this year.

“We basically operate at a loss for three-quarters of the year or a little longer,” said owner Lane Jacobson. “And we rely on a really busy summer to cover that.”

With most of Sisters’ major events already canceled this summer and the prospect of a constrained summer tourist season at best, Jacobson was forced to face a grim reality and seek a lifeline.

“I’m stubborn, and it’s humbling for me to do this,” he told The Nugget. “It’s time to face the reality that we probably won’t survive without extra help through this year.”

The GoFundMe page can be found at

The campaign page provides a breakdown of what donated funds will be used for.

“It’s basically to cover payroll, occupancy, and liability,” he said.

Independent bookstores have been battered over the past decade by changes in reading habits, changes in the publishing industry and the rise of But quality indies have found niches and some traction in recent years — Paulina Springs Books among them.

As the third owner of the store, Jacobson built on a loyal customer base, both among locals and among visitors, and was moving the store into a new level of success and activity as a cultural hub. It was the headquarters of the Sisters Festival of Books, which had a successful inaugural event last fall. Jacobson announced last week that the 2020 festival set for October would be canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

Paulina Springs has remained open through the pandemic shutdown, with a point-of-purchase table at the door. Customers can order books for store pick-up or deliver to their home, but they cannot come in and browse. The “takeout” business has allowed Paulina Springs to “tread water” Jacobson said, but without the prospect of a real summer season, merely treading water will inevitably become slowly sinking under.

The staff remains intact and Jacobson wants to ensure that it stays that way.

“The staff is what makes the store the store, and gives it its character and culture and all that,” he said. “I’m really reluctant to change that.”

Jacobson acknowledged that there has been a nationwide Save Indie Book Stores campaign, led by bestselling author James Patterson. The campaign has raised substantial funds, but the need is so widespread and acute that no bookstore can count on it as a lifeline.

“I would be surprised if it’s even $1,000 that we get,” he said.

Jacobson foresees a restricted level of commerce this summer.

“At best, I imagine being able to have a limited number of people in the store at any one time,” he said.

The safety and well-being of staff and customers is the top priority for Jacobson.

“We’re committed to following CDC guidelines, even if they’re more strict than government regulations,” he said.

Browsing the shelves is a key aspect of a bookstore experience, as are events with authors and other types of gatherings, and Jacobson recognizes that those will be limited for the foreseeable future. He plans on developing some “digital events,” perhaps connecting with authors remotely online, and will continue to promote the use of the Paulina Springs’ online store.

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Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

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Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


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