One of New York City’s last black-owned bookstores, Hue-Man Bookstore and Café, is closing at the end of the month. CEO Marva Allen told Publishers Weekly “we’re going to be around somewhere, somehow,” but the brick-and-mortar store will close July 31st.
In an open letter to the Harlem community, Allen laid out those plans as she explained her decision to close the bricks-and-mortar store. “We all know that there is a season for everything under heaven and the season of ‘traditional book’ selling has come to a close,” wrote Allen. “Closing the existing format of Hue-Man is forward thinking on our part and as we take pause to re-imagine the future of books and how to ensure that their purpose of entertaining, imparting knowledge and honing creativity is preserved, we find no viable alternative but to go back to the drawing board.” With her lease ending, Allen noted that “there is no way to re-imagine the bookstore of the future in our current space.”
The store’s demise wasn’t attributable to any single cause, said owner Marva Allen. Her hand was not forced by plumeting sales or a money-hungry landlord. Allen simply came to realize that her current business model could not be sustained in an era of e-books and digital delivery.
“We’re 10 years old and our lease is up,” she told the Daily News on Monday. “It was very difficult to imagine signing another 10-year lease… . This no longer represented the bookstore of the future.”
Allen, who plans to continue to sell the Hue-Man inventory online, said she looks forward to hosting events in the community and hopes to one day return with a new store.
“It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made,” Allen told the Daily News, noting that even though sales for the year have been up 37%, she didn’t see business increasing enough to pay the new rent.