After 10 incredible years, Hue-Man Bookstore & Cafe has announced it will close its doors on July 31. A premier black bookseller known for its frequent and energetic readings and signings with authors such as Toni Morrison, Nikki Giovanni, Tayari Jones, Jesmyn Ward, Manning Marable, Erica Kennedy, Rosa Guy, and E. Lynn Harris, Hue-Man Bookstore will be sorely missed in Harlem. It was the largest, most popular black bookstore in the area.
An announcement letter from the partners and staff of Hue-Man Bookstore explains:
We all know that there is a season for everything under heaven and the season of “traditional book” selling has come to a close.
When you do something for five hundred years and it works why change? But change has happened and the publishing industry is experiencing a new reality. Faced with tremendous social pressures to deliver the next big idea, celebrity books have become the interim hype, yet even that is not a sustainable model for an industry in turmoil. As stop-gap measures run out, the industry will be forced to reconcile the future place of “real books” in their business models and with continuous rumble and tumult, new ideas will percolate on how to deliver that new experience to the new consumer of books.
Hue-Man plans to respond to the ever-changing times by offering an online store. (Beginning in August, the online inventory will be discounted by 30 percent.) The store has also applied for a grant that would allow it to reopen its physical location at a later date, if awarded. The full letter outlines the store’s other initiatives and stresses that it can still be reached via its Facebook, Twitter, email and phone number contact information.
In response to the closing, Dr. R. L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy tweeted:
Sad to hear that @huemanbooks in Harlem is closing. Black Book stores are precious keepers of intellectual traditions. I’ve spent many an hour in @huemanbooks learning, growing, and enjoying Black discourse at its finest. Thank you for the years Marva et al!
Atria Books’ Vice President and Senior Editor Malaika Adero confirms Hue-Man’s vital importance to the black community and particularly to New Yorkers and Harlemites via her Facebook page:
Hue-Man Bookstore’s shift to online, closing the physical store 7/31, is big loss for New Yorkers/Harlemites. But, big ups to Marva Allen, for her amazing work, intelligence and commitment to our literary culture. Love and respect to you as you reinvent bookselling. I’m gonna be where you are. Thank you.
The forced closing of physical bookstores is an increasingly alarming trend, particularly for those who prefer the community of physical stores to e-readers and online purchasing. Hue-Man Bookstore & Cafe will be greatly missed, and hopefully, as the climate changes and as they continue to pursue funding, they’ll be able to reopen in the future.