Charlotte's Urban Reader Bookstore Reopens as Bookmobile
The Urban Reader Bookstore, a Black-owned bookshop in Charlotte, N.C., that closed earlier this year, has reopened as a bookmobile "with what its owner hopes is a more sustainable business model, trading a shopping center for a steering wheel," WFAE reported.
Owner Sonyah Spencer said the bookshop's physical location in Charlotte's University City neighborhood eventually became unfeasible, and was too costly to keep open: "Business owners need to adjust according to the economic times. For me, it wasn't financially right for the amount of rent I was paying at the brick-and-mortar location.... I was going red every month. It got to the point where the other business I do during the week, I was supplementing to keep the bookstore open."
When her 18-month lease ended in February, Spencer bought and renovated the bookmobile, which she noted is now accessible to different communities: "I get it. If I lived in Pineville, where I used to live, would I drive all the way to the university to go to a bookstore? No, I wouldn't. So, I said, you know what, 'let me go to the people, so the people don't have to go to me.' "
The bookmobile sells a range of books, including African American titles, children's literature, and a section for LGBTQ+ and Hispanics. Spencer is aware that many of those topics are controversial now, as efforts to remove books that deal with race and sexuality from school libraries continue around the region, but she observed: "I pray for the librarians, the school districts, and the community libraries because their road to getting a book on the shelf is harder for them than it is for me."
Changing a business plan can be an opportunity instead of a risk, Spencer noted, adding that she now has to pay only for gas, parking, and the occasional oil change.