Starting over: the retiring co-owner of Hue-Man Bookstore in Harlem reflects on a life in bookselling.All day, I watched the crowd grow bigger (and livelier) and the line longer until it snaked around the side of the building. I felt anxious and excited, but I knew we were prepared to handle such a celebrity author. After all, we had hosted his wife's signing the year before. Then two Hummers pulled up and discharged the no-nonsense secret service detail. An eternal five minutes later a black SUV pulled up and out stepped the tall, smiling and, yes, handsome William Clinton William Clinton can refer to:
It was Tuesday, June 22, 2004, the release date of his memoir, My Life (see BIBR BIBR Bay Islands Beach Resort (Roatan, Honduras)
BIBR Backward Indicator Bit Received , September-October 2004, "Up Close and Personal With 'Uptown Bill'"), and the Hue-Man Bookstore in Harlem was one of only two venues selected to host a book signing that day. As he made his way through the adoring crowd, I felt truly blessed. An in-store signing with Bill Clinton was a huge coup, even for a major book chain, making it nearly unheard of Not heard of; of which there are no tidings.
Unknown to fame; obscure.
See also: Unheard Unheard for an independent, specialty store Noun 1. specialty store - a store that sells only one kind of merchandise
shop, store - a mercantile establishment for the retail sale of goods or services; "he bought it at a shop on Cape Cod" to be selected to host such an event. Local and national television (Access Hollywood Access Hollywood is a weekday television entertainment news program covering events and celebrities in the entertainment industry. It was created by former Entertainment Tonight ) and all the daily papers were on hand, as well as media from Japan, Sweden and all over the world.
At the end of the day, the event was described as organized and professional. For the store, it was extremely successful, with over 2,000 books sold and signed. Hue-Man, an African American African American Multiculture A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. See Race. bookstore in Harlem, had been open two years, but for me, it marked 20 years in bookselling and with that signing, I realized that I had reached the pinnacle.
So what now? Coming up on our second anniversary, we now had a full-time store manager and had recently hired a marketing director. I asked myself, was this time for me to re-retire?
Dreams of Ownership
This was a long way from where I started in 1984. I entered bookselling quite by accident. I lived in Colorado and had been a psychotherapist psy·cho·ther·a·pist
An individual, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, psychiatric nurse, or psychiatric social worker, who practices psychotherapy. and a hospital administrator; then moved on to work in banking in corporate America. I loved all of my jobs, and they gratified grat·i·fy
tr.v. grat·i·fied, grat·i·fy·ing, grat·i·fies
1. To please or satisfy: His achievement gratified his father. See Synonyms at please.
2. and fulfilled my needs during the various stages of my life. But I also had a dream to one day own my own business. Although I'm a lifelong reader and had frequented bookstores whenever I traveled. Opening a bookstore wasn't really in my plans.
But plans change. When my long-distance male friend relocated from Oakland, California “Oakland” redirects here. For other uses, see Oakland (disambiguation).
Oakland (IPA: /ˈoʊklənd/), founded in 1852, is the eighth-largest city in the U.S. , to Denver, he brought with him an entrepreneurial streak. He wanted to open a card shop with the idea of expanding into selling books. Denver did not have a good black bookstore and this seemed like a natural for him. While at a cocktail party, I mentioned the plan for a bookstore, and to my surprise the host jumped at the idea, and we had found another partner.
Next was the critical piece--location, location, location. Ideally, we needed a commercial area with African American foot traffic for our store. We finally settled for a 1,500 square foot, two-story row house in a four-unit complex. It was adjacent to the historic Five Points District and had two main cross streets that generated heavy auto traffic.
Our research indicated that our market was heavily middle class, and our challenge was to drive traffic using a media campaign. From brainstorming and the wisdom from my daughters, who said I needed to create something newsworthy, or a "hook" for the media to feed on, we decided to create a public relations public relations, activities and policies used to create public interest in a person, idea, product, institution, or business establishment. By its nature, public relations is devoted to serving particular interests by presenting them to the public in the most campaign to promote Hue-Man as the largest African American bookstore in the country. We named it, and claimed it in our press releases.
Building the "Brand"
The buzz spread and our reputation grew through big-name author signings with lames Baldwin, Terry McMillan
Terry McMillan (born October 18, 1951, in Port Huron, Michigan) is an African-American author. , Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Colin Powell and E. Lynn Harris E. Lynn Harris is an Black American author, (b. June 20, 1955). Harris writes primarily about African American men on the down low or in the closet; Harris confirmed that he is a homosexual. He lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas and Atlanta, Georgia. . We developed partnerships with Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Company, Eulipions Theatre and other community organizations related to African American visual and performing arts. We promoted them and they promoted us. To kick off Black History Month, we hosted an annual show featuring local artists at the United Bank of Denver. We arranged twice for a donation of a container of books to be sent to South Africa, which was covered in The New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of Times. I became involved with the American Booksellers Association and was subsequently elected to its board of directors.
The mission statement for the store was to have the largest selection of African American books, with a welcoming ambiance am·bi·ance also am·bi·ence
The special atmosphere or mood created by a particular environment: "The noir ambience is dominated by low-key lighting . . . and excellent customer service. To better grow the business, we doubled our square footage and eventually purchased the building. We also added complementary tenants. The staff people were generally overqualified o·ver·qual·i·fied
Educated or skilled beyond what is necessary or desired for a particular job.
having more professional or academic qualifications than are required for a job for their jobs, but were people undergoing life transitions and appreciated having a job while sorting their options. They gave excellent customer service, which helped us to establish a brand locally and nationally.
I bought out my partner and started running the business pretty much alone. This took a toll on me, and within four years, I was completely burned out. I decided to sell the business, but it took two years to find a buyer. It was sold to three enthusiastic young persons who could take the store to the next level.
Never Too Late
At 70-years-old, this seemed like the appropriate time to retire and move to New York City New York City: see New York, city.
New York City
City (pop., 2000: 8,008,278), southeastern New York, at the mouth of the Hudson River. The largest city in the U.S. to join my two daughters and grandchildren. Around the same time, I was introduced by Diane White, the founder/president of Blackberry, the Afro-centric lifestyle retailer, to a developer who wanted a bookstore in the Harlem USA Retail Complex that would house the Magic Johnson Theatre. Although "officially retired," I found the idea of opening a Hue-Man in Harlem intriguing. As I weighed my options, things fell into place that made it easy for me to say yes. One, I was able to obtain two bright, young and eager investing partners, Rita Ewing and Celeste Celeste is a woman's first name. Celeste may also refer to:
Now, after two years, it seems time to hang up my hat and return to the original plan that brought me to New York: to spend time with my daughters and grandchildren and enjoy all of the ballet, theatre, culture and entertainment that New York City has to offer. The store is a success, as evidenced by the Bill Clinton signing, and this is the best time for me to leave. Bookselling has been good and satisfying for me, providing an opportunity for personal and professional growth. The business is certainly different from when I started. The competition is fierce and the challenges are many, and I look forward to applauding the next generation.
Clara C. Villarosa is now retired, again.