Books offer an escape from the ordinary. Difficult times that one may face are alleviated by the newfound world in the pages of a great book.
Hakim Hopkins, founder and owner of Black and Nobel bookstore, couldn’t agree more.
“The first day I went out, I sold 40 books, and I haven’t looked back since,” Hopkins said. “And that was six years ago.”
Today, Black and Nobel is one of Philadelphia’s hot spots. Music artists, authors, promoters and local consumers stop by the bookstore to show love and support to the place that gives back to the people and the community.
“Black and Nobel is home – it’s a family,” said Brother Science, an employee at the bookstore. “We’re not just a store – we’re a movement.”
The main goal of Black and Nobel, located at 1409 W. Erie Ave., is to spread literacy throughout the community and to bring people together.
Sounds of music guide visitors up the stairs to the second floor to the entrance of Black and Nobel.
Good beats and a family-like atmosphere complement the collection of urban literature on one side and hip-hop and R&B on the other. Black and Nobel’s marketing strategy is to have music and books come together.
“The music draws the people into the literacy world,” Hopkins said. “Most people can accept music. They love it, it’s spiritual.”
Black and Nobel is essentially a movement on the rise. Selling books is only one extension of the business. It provides other services like marketing, promotion and advertising for authors and music artists.
A book tour is in the works for Black and Nobel. “Rhythm and Books” is under production to feature music performances and book readings. Its connection with music has also inspired Black and Nobel to schedule a black college tour.
The bookstore’s online version is also profitable and is rated number one on amazon.com in urban literature. Black and Nobel also ships to schools, prisons and soldiers in Iraq.
“That’s the thing about the book business – there are no limits,” Hopkins said.
Located in North Philadelphia, Black and Nobel bookstore sticks out like a sore thumb. You look around the surrounding areas, and you can see why the bookstore is such a positive influence in the community.
“That’s the thing about Black and Nobel’s success,” Hopkins added. “We uplifted the community and empowered it by having something available besides fried chicken, beer and cheesesteaks. That’s important.”
A lover and an avid reader of books, Hopkins wanted to try something different and make a change. He enrolled into the New Choices/New Options program at Temple, where he received assistance in getting his vendor’s license.
Selling books at a bus stop on Broad Street and Erie Avenue was all it took to envision what is now Black and Nobel bookstore.
Author Nisaa Showell, a Black and Nobel employee, teaches valuable lessons and messages in her bestselling book The Reign of a Hustler. While some literary critics dismiss urban literature as poorly written and unethical, Showell said it is a product of African-American society.
“When drugs started coming into the community, there was a decline in the family structure that was really broken … children did not know what was real and what was fiction,” Showell said.
She said urban literature transcends the language of the havenots, and it provides lessons and solutions to follow.
People of all demographics have poured into Black and Nobel.
Nate, a loyal customer, comes in on his way home from work up to three times a week. Among his favorite books are The 48 Laws of Power and The Art of Seduction, both by Robert Greene.
“Black and Nobel does a lot for the community. [There’s] always something going on, good atmosphere, good people. You can come here and really have fun,” Nate said.
While many libraries are doomed to close in communities throughout Philadelphia, Black and Nobel will stay open for business.
“Closing down libraries is very disrespectful,” Hopkins said. “We should be building more libraries.”
Many youth, especially in inner-city Philadelphia, are not able to expand their horizons, but Black and Nobel hopes to change that.
“Black and Nobel is there to uplift and rebuild,” Showell said. “Rebuild the minds of the youth.”
Sandra Rollins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.