One small business owner got a boost from the Late Night Show host Stephen Colbert and some heavyweight Hollywood talent on Super bowl Sunday. As Colbert explained on his show “These big companies aren’t the ones who need our support the most right now. Its small businesses out there who have been hurt the most in this pandemic. Of course a small business could never afford the millions of dollars it would cost to produce and run an ad on CBS tonight. So we decided to pick a small business and just give it an ad. A Colbert PSA encouraging the support of local businesses had already appeared during the game.
With that introduction, a commercial for North Carolina’s Foggy Pine Books began, with a voiceover from actor Sam Elliott and Oscar-winner Tom Hanks providing a priceless deadpan endorsement as well as a closing jingle, the ad also featured skydiving, edible books, footage of the actual bookstore and a spotlight on their drive through window service. It may be one of the most charming commercials in television history. “Foggy Pine Books has the best selection in all of Boone,” said Hanks, holding up some books. “They have books on all of my interests such as World War II, and also books about the events from 1939-45.”
They already had a GoFundMe campaign up seeking support that said: “Foggy Pine is owned by a woman named Mary Ruthless, who has poured her heart and soul into this establishment portraying her passion for books and her love for all people no matter their age, race, gender or whatever it may be; all are welcome there. But maybe not for long. This pandemic has hit small businesses hard and despite Mary’s efforts there has been minimal government aid. It’s up to individuals and communities of all sizes to work together to help those in need. And Foggy Pine is in need. Every community should have an inviting bookstore and Boone has one of the best and most welcoming indie bookstores on the entire east coast. It would be heartbreaking to let this award winning store slip away.”
Owner Mary Ruthless isn’t sure why or how their business was chosen. “It was kind of like winning the lottery. They wanted to feature a small business that had been hit hard by COVID and do what they could to promote them. I don’t know exactly what it was that caught their eye. I’m sure part of it was our drive-thru.” No matter how they were chosen, with a mandate to sell 1,350 books a month or face defeat, it was clear without some kind of change, the outlook for this small business looked pretty bleak.
“I did everything I could try to do to stay in business. There were several weeks I didn’t take a paycheck, I had to lay people off after our PPE ran out, but we made it through the holidays… I was really pleased with that, but winter is our slowest season and I was really concerned about whether or not we were going to make it through the season” Ruthless said.
Ruthless said when the store opened for business the Monday after the Super Bowl ad aired, there were 500 book orders waiting, and business, while it’s settled down a bit after the initial bump, remains brisk. “Weeks ago we were wondering how we were going to make it through winter and now I’m having to hire a couple of extra people to process all the extra orders” a grateful Ruthless said.