Underdog Bookstore, Monrovia, Calif., Staying Open as Nonprofit

Underdog Bookstore in Monrovia, Calif., which was on the verge of closing due to bigoted harassment, will remain open as a nonprofit under new leadership, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported.

Next month, founding owners and married couple Thomas Murtland and Nathan Allen will leave the bookstore, and a new leadership team, headed by long-time customer Kealie Mardell-Carrera, will take over. The bookstore, which highlights titles by underrepresented authors and provides a safe space for marginalized communities, will transition from a for-profit model to a nonprofit model, with Mardell-Carrera serving as president.

This spring, Murtland and Allen announced their intention to step away from the store, citing incidents of harassment both in-store and online that included everything from anonymous homophobic comments to people berating staff members about the diverse selection of books. In fact, the frequency of in-store incidents eventually led Allen and Murtland to keep the store open only on weekends

And though they were stepping away, they didn't want the area to become a book desert, and told customers and community members that they would be "open to ideas" regarding ownership changes.

The suggestion of turning the bookstore into a nonprofit drew an enthusiastic response, with more than 30 people reaching out about volunteering or joining the board, Mardell-Carrera told the Tribune.

"It was really affirming that this is an important space, that we need to make the nonprofit happen," Mardell-Carrera added.

Going forward, Mardell-Carrera plans to expand Underdog's operating hours and create additional programming geared toward foster youth, disabled children, and seniors. The store will continue to subsidize books for community members with limited access, and it will remain a safe and inclusive space.

While the switch to a nonprofit model is not yet complete, the bookstore will hold a fundraising event this Sunday at a brewery that will feature therapy animals, crafts, a silent auction, and a used book sale.

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