Operating a bookstore in an age of digital media is not easy. The book industry is a business that is in transition. Those who see it from a closer standpoint are bookstore owners. I had the opportunity to interview Janifer Wilson, the owner of Sisters Uptown Bookstore. Located in the Harlem/Washington Heights area, Sisters has been open for 13 years. I spoke with Janifer about how she has been able to successfully maintain this endeavor, and tend to the needs of the community as well.
Polite On Society: What is the bookstore business like nowadays?
Janifer Wilson: The bookstore business has a different trend from years ago. Even though the industry moves towards the online platform, there are still avid readers who want books.
POS: How did the closing of Hue-man Bookstore affect you?
JW: Honestly, it has not affected us. A lot of folk in our area don’t know we exist. People in Central Harlem are not aware of us. Because of our locale, Central Harlem does not really know of us. Our location does avail us to serve people coming from New Jersey, from Brooklyn etc. I was regretful to see Hue-man bookstore close, and wish I had more of an opportunity to do collaborative work. Our mission is about community, and our services are geared towards it.
Many of the authors we have featured here are not necessarily in the mainstream. Many are self-published, independent, and grass roots. We believe that its important that those individuals have a platform as well. We take pride in presenting those folks who would not have had an avenue to present their works.
POS: Is there a social networking component?
JW: We offer a variety of workshops. We do entrepreneurial collaborations, and we have a woman and man’s book clubs. We offer space to groups of people doing different things like health workshops, yoga, and meditation. We have storytelling for the children, and guitar lessons for the youth on Saturdays. Our overall theme could be summed up in the statement: “What do we need to build who we are?” We ask that, for the purpose of serving the needs of the community that this store is in.