A Story for the Books: The Italian Bookseller and his Bicycle

Mattia Garavaglia brought his love for books into the homes of his community by turning a crisis into an opportunity.

Having always been a bookworm from an early age, Mattia Garavaglia always dreamt of starting his own bookshop. At age 27, his dreams became a reality when a small bookstore in his hometown, Turin, went up for sale. This is when he decided to take a leap of faith and open a bookstore called the Libreria del Golem.

Like many entrepreneurs, Garavaglia went through the growing pains of launching a new business, consequently having to use his space as both a storefront and living space. After three years struggling to keep his business afloat, Garavaglia was challenged with an unforeseeable plot twist that even a best-selling thriller couldn’t come up with: a global pandemic.

Italy has been one of the countries where the coronavirus crisis hit the hardest, and local businesses all over the country suffered the devastating effects of the lockdowns. For Turin, there was no exception. The city known for its Baroque architecture, and Roman past rich in history, became a total ghost town.

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Garavaglia knew he had to do something, so he pivoted online to connect with his customers through social media. On February 25, 2020, he posted a picture of himself on Instagram with his bicycle in front of his bookstore, captioning it with: “For those who do not want, or cannot leave the house, I have decided to bring the books directly to your home”.

A simple, yet savvy, and effective way of providing a safe service to his customers, Garavaglia’s inventory skyrocketed, and he quickly became overwhelmed by the amount of business and attention he was receiving. As the orders came in quickly, Garavaglia would spend hours using pencil and paper to try and pinpoint the shortest roots between each delivery he had to make.

Finally, Garavaglia realized he could cut corners by working smarter and using technology, specifically Google Maps, as an essential tool to plot the quickest bike routes between each delivery. If this service wasn’t sweet enough, Garavaglia’s girlfriend, Gida, a local chef, added a decadent box of tiramisu to each book delivered.

As other local bookstores took notice of what Garavaglia was doing, they naturally took a leaf out of his book, but instead of competing for business, they decided to support each other by working together and launched a website called bookdealer.it. The website is meant to help other local shops in Turin sell their books online and support them during these unprecedented times.

Garavaglia’s story has a happy ending. He merged his two loves, books and cycling, into an opportunity to serve the community around him, and in turn, himself. His story reminds us that taking the road less travelled is often scary but can end with great reward: whether that’s discovering the power of social media, helping your community thrive in ways you never thought it could, or by bringing a little adventure into the homes and minds of a society needing to escape reality for a moment in time.

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Estelle Zentil

Estelle Zentil