SAN MATEO (KPIX) — A successful holiday shopping season has left San Mateo bookstore owner Lewis Cohen hopeful that the darkest economic times of the COVID pandemic are now behind him.

Cohen is co-owner of B Street Books and deals in used and rare books. He managed to keep his doors open, but its been a struggle.

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“You know when we first locked down, I lost a lot of help,” Cohen said. “If it continues, as long as there is some light at the end of the tunnel, I’m willing to keep going.”

His store has around 40,000 items for sale at any given time. Cohen has worked seven days a week to keep the store going since the start of COVID-19 setbacks that continued into 2021. The omicron variant is the latest unknown he and other small businesses must navigate as they work to get back to revenues they last saw in 2019.

“An incredible challenge because we closed for seven months,” said Isabelle de Paz, the owner of All That Glitters in Burlingame. “We survived the last two, it can only get better, maybe? And if it stays the same, I’m grateful because I’m still here now.”

Her store offers vintage items that are often one-of-kind and from designers who choose to sell their creations at her shop exclusively. But part of her business model is making sure her store is approachable to all potential customers with gifts available for as low as $1.

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“People feel hopeful no matter what,” she told KPIX 5. “People still want to celebrate things. Family is important. Friends are important. Making someone feel wonderful in such difficult times.”

Other stores along Broadway in Burlingame were also thankful for repeat customers.

“It’s heartwarming to see so many in the community continuing to support local business and we look forward to providing a unique shopping experience in 2022,” an employee at Bare Necessities said.

Business owners say while the pandemic has tested them, it never made them want to stop doing what they love. They hope by offering items that are in demand, they will maintain a loyal customer base for another year.

December is typically a strong month for some retail stores. Next week could be a crucial source of income as people look to shop with money they received on Christmas or plan ahead by buying items they want in the new year.

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“The model that we’re following is one that works in this environment,” Cohen told KPIX 5.