Kentucky’s only African-American-owned bookstore reopened in Lexington Friday, thanks to a community-driven effort that raised over $35,000 to rescue it.
The survival of Wild Fig Coffee and Books was never a sure thing. In August, after three years in business, the owners – writer Crystal Wilkinson and Ronald Davis – announced plans to sell or close up shop by the end of September. But community members who had found a home there weren’t about to let that happen.
"As we see across the nation, very few minority-owned companies get the support and revenue they need," supporter Adrian Wallace said. "But it had become such a community mainstay, the community decided they want to save it."
And so they did, pooling resources and turning the business into a worker cooperative. The chilly ribbon-cutting Friday morning was greeted with calls of "Power to the people." April Taylor, now a worker-owner, says she believes Wild Fig is blazing a trail for similar businesses in communities like Lexington.
"We have so many people of a diverse background that are involved, setting that example that you don't have to be somewhere where the population of people of color is extremely high to have something like this that is successful," she says.
All told, Wild Fig is shooting for about 20 worker-owners, who invest either money or work-hours into the cooperative. Taylor says customers won’t likely see too many changes on the retail end, but the bookstore hopes to expand its outreach into the community.
Wild Fig lists itself as one of fewer than 50 black-owned bookstores in the country. While numbers had been steeply declining in recent years, Publisher's Weekly reported at least 108 were open in April of this year, according to the African America Literature Book Club.