|Semicolon Bookstore & Gallery, Chicago IL
Community building. That's one of the things owner Danielle M. told me to describe the space and business of Semicolon Bookstore & Gallery in Chicago. An all-inclusive space where all are welcome. Come to a class about publishing. Come to the bookclub even if you haven't read the book. Bring a young child to the story time. Come to a black movie event and BYOE (bring your own everything--blanket, pillow, snack, etc.). The concept of community building is nothing new for many indies. In fact, I think its one of the pillars in many of these stores. But for this bookstore in Chicago, it takes on an even more important role of community support for many who are looking for a welcoming space with welcoming people.
Semicolon Bookstore & Gallery has been open for about 6 months and it is one of the country's few black female-owned bookstores. The strength of this store is African-American authors and interests but they also have many other genres and authors. They have a very comfortable reading room behind the check-out counter and a cozy children's room behind that. The store offers mostly new books with no sidelines. Many of the beautiful murals throughout the store are by Chicago graffiti artists. The store's other strength is the gallery of art displayed in the basement. These works are done by local black artists and are available for purchase. Semicolon offers an artist in residency space and as Danielle told me, this will be a huge help for someone since many of these local artists are homeless.
I'm happy to say that in their short 6 months, things are going really well. In this short time, they're already ahead of the curve for events and activities. The customer base is strongly black women and white millennials (I became an exception to those categories!). Hopefully, this blurb will reach the eyes of some black men who will pay the store a visit.
There are some out there who will choose not to visit this bookstore because it is owned by a strong, intelligent black woman. For these people, you could not be making a bigger mistake. You will not find nicer, more welcoming people than Danielle, events coordinator Brittany, and their staff. Heck, I don't know who enjoyed this visit more, them or me! These ladies are the best and Chicago needs to discover this place. Danielle is an up and comer, in fact she's already in the process of opening a second completely different bookstore business. If Chicago has some kind of "30 under 30" list, she needs to be on it. So check this place out. Even if you don't buy a book you'll have a blast meeting the wonderful people who work there. Go to an indie and buy a book. Bonsoir.
JUST FINISHED: In Zanesville, Jo Ann Beard. Story of two early adolescent awkward girls who endure the usual challenges of that age and all its drama. This will take you back to 9th grade and the prospect of a public kiss, a high school football game, baby-sitting, and always being at odds with your mother. I enjoyed this book but also think teachers of junior high students and women will especially enjoy it. Recommended.
CURRENTLY READING: Author In Chief, Craig Fehrman.
RECENTLY PURCHASED: Death Of Innocence, Mamie Till-Mobley & Christopher Benson. The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mohsin Hamid.
|View looking into the store from the front entrance.
|Look to the right after entering and you'll see this impressive mural.
|All independent bookstores advise this.
|Very cool and so indie.
|Just inside the front entrance.
|Bargain table display near the front entrance.
|You can find a lot of great quotes posted in many bookstores.
|Display of black authors and interests.
|A long wall of books.
|Beautiful collage mural.
|Have a seat and try out a book.
|You can enjoy excellent mural artistry throughout the store.
|There is some great stuff here for 50% off.
|Words open books.
|Have a seat and read a zine.
|A few of the items offered that are self-published.
|Partial view of a nice reading room space, located behind the check-out counter. Go through the doorway pictured and you'll be in the children's room.
|Brittany uses her talents as a former teacher to add her creativity to the reading room.
|Partial view of the children's room.
|Just a few of the influential African-American women in literature.
|So many bookstores strongly advocate for their local community. Semicolon does it in a number of ways.
|This is the stairway down to the gallery. Along the way you'll see some excellent graffiti art work...
|Partial view of the gallery.
|Another example of what you'll see in the gallery.
|Looking from the back of the store toward the front entrance.
|I love this.
|With Brittany on the left and Danielle on the right, two of the fine people you'll meet at Semicolon Bookstore & Gallery. Thanks for a great visit.