How Tom Hanks, Stephen Colbert & Sam Elliott Saved A Small Bookstore From The Brink Of Disaster

Photo: Tinseltown & Eugene Powers / Shutterstock
Tom Hanks and Stephen Colbert

When the pandemic rolled around, everyone took a big hit in different ways. Small and locally owned businesses took the biggest hit of all. Some were forced to close down permanently, while others are still on thin ice.

This was the case for a small bookstore in Boone, North Carolina. Foggy Pine Books was far from meeting monthly sales goal and was headed toward shuttering for good. That is, until an advertisement aired on CBS.

With the help of Stephen Colbert, Tom Hanks and Sam Elliott, the bookstore got a free advertisement that aired on CBS during “The Late Show,” saving them from having to close their doors for good.

Now they are busy beyond belief.

Why did Sam Elliot, Tom Hanks and Stephen Colbert Save Foggy Pine Books?

According to the bookstore’s owner, Mary Ruthless, the show's research team found them while searching for small businesses affected by the pandemic. "Something that we did stood out,” Ruthless said.

On their Instagram account, Foggy Pine Books offers their audience what they call a "monthly transparency post" — an inside look at what they were doing to stay afloat. In these posts, they've shared with their followers that they need to sell 1350 books each month in order to simply keep their shop running.

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In their February post, they shared the news that they had failed to make their January goal, yet remained optimistic.

"Our holiday season went quite well but winter is generally a really tough time for us," the post states. "We expected lowered sales in January, as follows our typical sales pattern, and we were not surprised to see that we didn’t meet our goal last month. We sold 836 books during January. That said, we are so grateful for each & every purchase & the loving support of our readers but it’s always disappointing when we don’t meet our sales goal. So, we are more determined than ever to make February an amazing month for us."

Thanks to Colbert and his show, the bookstore received an unexpectedly big boost.

"Big companies aren't the ones that need our support the most right now," Colbert said before showing the ad. "It's small businesses that 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, which is why we here at 'The Late Show' have decided to just pick one and just give it to them."

This took a struggling, locally owned small business and turned it into an overrun bookstore with more orders than the staff could fathom.

How did Sam Elliott and Tom Hanks get involved?

The ad begins with a man jumping out of an airplane, skydiving and landing next to the bookstore. As he narrates, actor Sam Elliot's deep voice keeps you hooked the entire time, as the creative writing pulls you in.

Toward the end of the ad, Hanks, who’s referred to as a satisfied customer, shows off his favorite books from the bookstore, which mirror his roles in films like “Saving Private Ryan.”

Hanks then gives a shoutout and thank you to the bookstore, saying, “Foggy Pine Books has the best selection in all of Boone.”

The advertisement ends with a little jingle about the bookstore sung by Hanks himself, before Elliott tells the camera, “Your adventure awaits.”

It's no secret that 'The Late Show' called upon the two actors to help out because they knew their involvement would take the ad to the next level. And it would be tough for anyone familiar with Hanks role as a super bookstore magnate in the 1998 film "You've Got Mail" not to find his role especially endearing and captivating.

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The Ad’s Impact and the Future for Foggy Pine Books

Fairly immediately, the bookstore’s revenue and orders skyrocketed. A small bookstore that was once failing to meet its monthly goal was now surpassing it by hundreds.

“We received almost 2,000 orders in the week after our ad was featured and we were able to process 1,392 books,” Ruthless said in the store's March transparency post.

Since the ad first ran, the folks at Foggy Pine Books hired five new staff members and have been “swamped” with processing all the orders they've received.

“We have been humbled by the outpouring of love and orders from folks all around the country. It’s been quite a wild ride and we’re thankful for each and every order, email, and phone call from our fans,” Ruthless said.

They have slowed down in orders since reaching a peak. However, they are still surpassing their goals and going strong. Ruthless said she hopes to build a bigger community and to meet new people throughout the process.

We are all rooting for the little bookstore that could in Boone, North Carolina — Foggy Pine Books!

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Tomás Diniz Santos is a writer living in Orlando, Florida. He covers news, entertainment, and pop-culture topics.