Black-Owned NC Bookstore Reopens As A Bookmobile

A Black-owned bookstore that closed down earlier in 2023 has reopened with a unique business venture that is proving more sustainable. 

As reported by WFAE 90.7, bookmobile owner Sonyah Spencer sells books from a painted white school bus in North Carolina’s South Park area. Spencer was forced to improvise in her bookselling business venture after her brick-and-mortar shop, The Urban Reader Bookstore, grew too expensive to keep open.

Spencer said of paying $6,000 monthly to lease the space, “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.”

Spencer told the outlet that once her 18-month lease ended earlier in 2023 she decided to take her book-selling shop on the road, buying the bookmobile.

“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,” Spencer said. So, I said, you know what, let me go to the people, so the people don’t have to go to me.”

Now her costs are much more conducive to a successful business plan. Her payments include around $60 for gas, bus maintenance, and about $100 for parking every month. 

Now able to serve many more communities, Spencer continues selling books by Black authors, LGBTQ+ books, and children’s books. She acknowledged that many of the books are controversial now and have even been subject to bans, but said it was better for her to leave her shelves uncensored. 

“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,” said Spencer.

A fellow community member named Robert emphasized the importance of resources like Spencer’s bookmobile. He said, “We live in the United States of America, and freedom of speech is important. The opportunity to choose, to read, and to explore whatever we want is a good thing, so it’s great to see this out here.”

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