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A Black-owned bookstore in Charlotte is set to close temporarily

Urban Reader Bookstore.jpg
Elvis Menayese
The Urban Reader Bookstore in northeast Charlotte is set to close temporarily on Feb. 26, 2023.

The Urban Reader Bookstore in northeast Charlotte has an array of books by African American authors, children’s literature and sections of other diverse interests. The store is set to close temporarily and change locations. In the process, the shop owner plans to pivot her business model to make the store sustainable.

 The Urban Reader Bookstore is tucked away in the corner of a shopping center in the University City area. Owner Sonyah Spencer plans to relocate to allow more people access to the resources.

“I need to be more visible. So, my goal is looking towards the boardwalk area where people are out and about,” Spencer said. “You know, the biggest thing people have been telling me is, ‘oh, I couldn't find you. I couldn't find you.’”

Bookstore owner.jpg
Sonyah Spencer
Sonyah Spencer is the owner of the Urban Reader Bookstore.

Spencer said she also plans to open up a coffee shop as a way to raise revenue.

“Typically, independent bookstores, we are the ones happy if we break even every month,” Spencer said.

Spencer intends to provide a mobile bookstore to sustain her business.

“I get it; if you live in Pineville, you’re not going to drive to the university area to go to a bookstore,” Spencer said. “So, I’m going to take the bookstore to you on the weekends or during the week for some book fairs for organizations or schools.”

Despite local businesses closing due to the impact of COVID-19, independent bookstores are supported by organizations such as Bookshop.org that connect readers to independent sellers. According to the site, it was launched after the U.S. bookstore market size dropped 50% from 2010 to 2020. At the same time, Amazon book sales increased by 8% yearly. Local bookstores keep 30% of the items sold through the site.

African American portraits - bookstore.jpg
Elvis Menayese
Portraits of Lorraine Hansberry (L), Maya Angelou, and Angela Davis are painted inside the bookstore.

Tiziana Rojas stopped by the store specifically for the book ‘Missing 411.’ She said access to diverse children’s books can help educate teens.

“Social media has a big hold on the youth right now, and the fact that they are able to have access to books and learn for themselves the real history, real Black history,” Rojas said. “And have it so accessible, I think it’s really good because you don’t want social media really raising our kids.”

There’s also a section on LGBTQ+ and Hispanics.

"It’s much more cultural. There goes a Spanish book right there. I’m able to be more invested; I’m able to relate better with probably the characters, so that’s very important,” Rojas said.

LGBTQ - section.jpg
Elvis Menayese
A section of books on the LGBTQ+ community at the bookstore.

Despite the Urban Reader Bookstore store closing on Sunday, books can be purchased online. On Saturday, the store will host a signing event with local authors from 1 to 3 p.m. and another set from 4 to 6 p.m. The store is located at 440 E McCullough Drive.


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Elvis Menayese is a Report for America corps member covering issues involving race and equity for WFAE. He previously was a member of the Queens University News Service. Major support for WFAE's Race & Equity Team comes from Novant Health and Wells Fargo.