COVID-19 Edition: Chop Suey Books – Richmond, Virginia

COVID-19 Edition: Chop Suey Books – Richmond, Virginia

While bookstore explorations are on pause, let’s look at how a Richmond staple is keeping books in the hands of customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Richmond, Virginia’s Chop Suey Books was named Virginia’s best bookstore in 2019 by MentalFloss, and it’s easy to see why. From an expansive inventory spanning two floors, a friendly staff, a cool vibe, a unique history, and a friendly bookshop cat, Chop Suey checks all the boxes of a fantastic indie. 

The shop came by its unusual name rather naturally. Its original location was the former home of George’s Chop Suey, a neighborhood restaurant and watering hole. Since their sign was still attached to the side of what became the bookshop, the name stuck! The owners, however, have found a way to make the title work. From their website: “‘Chop Suey’ refers to a dish of food, though the phrase is an Americanization of the Mandarin ‘Za Sui,’ meaning ‘a little bit of this, a little bit of that.’ This translation applies perfectly to Chop Suey Books’ vision of combining a solid collection of gently used literature, art, photography, architecture, design, philosophy, poetry, theater, film and the like.”

(A little blurry. It’s hard to get a good photo of a moving cat.)

The original location opened in 2002, and a second site was added in 2006 in the Carytown neighborhood. Rent increases at the flagship shop forced its closure, and the Carytown location has now become Chop Suey’s only retail space, with two floors of well-curated, nearly new used titles and around 1,200 new titles. 

I visited Chop Suey back in 2018, before launching the Bookstore Explorer site, and it immediately catapulted high into my favorites list. While my bookstore explorations have ceased during the COVID-19 pandemic, I have kept a close eye on how indie shops across the world are working to maintain operations and to get books into the hands of readers. Chop Suey has long maintained an active online store, and the shop has adjusted its practices to keep customers stocked in reading material during this time. 

As of time of writing, Chop Suey Books has multiple ways to shop its large inventory.

  • Browse the online shop.
  • Follow Chop Suey Books on Instagram, where they’re posting books available for purchase.
  • Special Ordering: Just call or email with your selection of new books that aren’t in stock.
  • Gift Certificates: Give the gift of books!

In addition to the shopping methods, Chop Suey is offering the following services during the coronavirus responses:

  • For locals, free delivery within Richmond city limits for orders over $20.
  • In-person Pickup: Pay via phone or buy through the online shop and pickup safely outside the storefront.
  • Phone or Venmo Payments: call to discuss.

Shopping independent bookstores during the COVID-19 response is a wonderful way to support local economies. Research what your local indie shop is doing to keep books in the hands of readers, and visit Chop Suey Books at ChopSueyBooks.com.

Chop Suey Books is located at 2913 West Cary Street, Richmond, Virginia. Hours currently adjusted for COVID-19. Call (804) 422-8066 or visit the website for updates.

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