FULTON — How are you? Three months ago those words were simply an everyday greeting that would usually elicit a response of fine thanks, how are you?
The changes brought on by the COVID -19 pandemic has made the phrase “How are you?” more meaningful and thought provoking than ever before. Sheltering in place, social distancing, and other mandates have created a feeling of isolation. Many long for day when they can once again hear “How are you?”
For those passing through one of Oswego County’s busiest intersections, Oneida Street and Rt. 481 in Fulton, “How are you?” is a colorful greeting that they receive every day.
Backstreet Books, 201 Oneida Street in Fulton, has decorated their windows with colorful designs including a large “How are you?” greeting. While the store is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic store manager Carol Ireland found a creative way for Backstreet Books to maintain its positive impact on its community.
“The first thing I thought of when we were told in March to close down was that I needed people to know it is okay,” explained Ireland. “The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone in some way. We may not agree on certain things but at this time we are all in this together. It’s an important message to share. With what we are experiencing now it is easy to think we are alone. We should be asking people, and calling our neighbors to assure that they are okay. By putting in our window a quote such as ‘How are you?’ it gives people pause to reflect and hopefully say to themselves I’m okay.”
Ireland occasionally changes the design to keep it fresh and continue to draw the attention of those passing by. “People enjoy seeing it. I’ve received quite a bit of positive feedback from people, including several posts on Facebook. People stopped at the light or walking by have that moment to reflect. They appreciate being reminded that it will be okay, we will get through this,” said Ireland.
A program of Oswego County Opportunities (OCO), and funded in part by the NYS Department of State, Community Services Block Grant, Backstreet Books provides the Fulton community with a fine selection of gently used books and serves as an educational and training resource.
Backstreet Books is part of OCO’s Job Assistance Readiness Training program (JART) which works closely with Employment and Training at DSS and Workforce in Fulton. JART has a whole case management program that is based at Backstreet Books. All the cases are referred from the county. Backstreet Books serves as a job training site for many as store employees are placed from DSS and Workforce, with an OCO supervisor always on site.
“During the summer we have youth placements through the county Youth Works program. Often these are young people who have never had a job and will benefit greatly from some skills training,” said Ireland. “Working at Backstreet Books gives them the opportunity to learn basic customer service skills from point of sales transactions, to being able to communicate with customers in person and on the phone. We had two youth placements with us when we had to shut down, hopefully they will be able to return at some point and complete the rest of their time.”
While the doors remain closed, Ireland said that people are anxiously awaiting the chance to once again browse the store’s shelves. “We have a steady flow of customer traffic. We have our regulars and during the summer we see a number of people from out of town. Being a used bookstore we often have older titles that can be hard to find elsewhere. We’re fortunate that we receive donations in a wide variety of titles and genres. With our store temporarily closed due to the COVID -19 pandemic we are not currently able to accept donations, but we will be gladly doing so once we open back up!”
So while we wait patiently for the chance to visit Backstreet Books and find a book that will help us relax and take our minds to a happier place, we can reflect on that simple question that is cheerfully displayed for all to see on the windows of the Backstreet Bookstore…and think, “I’m fine, how are you?”