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Few Black-Owned Bookstores Exist In The U.S. Lexington Just Saved One.

Josh James
An open sign greets visitors to Wild Fig Coffee and Books on NorthLimestone in Lexington, on Friday, November 16, 2018.

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. 

Credit Josh James / WUKY
Lexington's Wild Fig Coffee and Books celebrated its grand reopening Friday, November 13, 2018, as is transitions into a worker cooperative.

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. 

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.