AUSTIN, Texas - Support for black-owned businesses has exploded, and small businesses like Black Pearl Books are seeing it too.
A Yelp economic report shows a 7 thousand percent increase in Yelp searches for black-owned companies compared to this time last year.
The good news also comes with unexpected challenges. Katrina Brooks, owner of the online shop, Black Pearl Books says at this point, they’re just scaling for the moment.
As Brooks stacks the shelves for Black Pearl Books, she’s dealing with such a huge influx of customer orders, they’ve had to turn their car garage into a real bookstore. “I don't know if I can find space!“ Brooks says laughing.
While she tries to cram anywhere she can, her daughter is in charge of checking books in. “Normally we park in the garage, normally my husband parks in the garage, we can’t do that right now,” Brooks says, “It’s definitely taken some sacrifice from the entire family.”
Her son also helps. He’s set up right in front of the garage door, hiding behind stacks and stacks of books as they prepare to ship to hundreds of new customers. “So I’m separating the books by the title, the letter that they start with,” Brook’s teenage son says.
The work never ends, they spend their free time sorting book after book.
“We saw this influx of orders coming through and we were just like, woah, what do we do?” Brooks remembers.
Every title inside their home is not inventory, it already belongs to a customer waiting to support a black-owned business. “I look around and all of these books give me so much hope honestly, it gives me so much hope,” Brooks says, “because people are seeking, people are wanting the knowledge.”
The knowledge that comes with opening doors to new possibilities, new ways of thinking with help from greats like Toni Morrison or Resmaa Menakem as they look for ways to uproot racism.
Some of Brooks’ favorite titles also include the children's books she says also has lessons to teach. “It allows the child or parent reading it to tell their own story, their own version of what’s happening in the picture,” Brooks says describing a children’s book with no words and only pictures.
The books have no spilled into the living room and game room, even under the pool table and the orders keep coming. “It’s not really sexy, it’s just books and we’re filling orders you know?” Brooks said laughing.
The work continues, it’s a family affair and even grandma is joining in to help.
Still, even though the work is about books, it’s not only about books.
“I feel like yes, I prepared, and yes, I have the website and I've done those things as a business you must do, but in terms of this [order surge] we’re seeing, that wasn’t of my doing, that was of a much larger, you know, that was of God’s doing honestly,” Brooks says.
Already these books have brought the community together in a way never seen before. “Reading offers some form of freedom, some form of liberation of the mind, that as slaves you know, they weren’t allowed to have those types of freedoms,” Brooks says taking it all in. “For me to look around and see this, I can't put into words, the joy that my heart feels when I think through how my ancestors weren’t allowed to read and now we have access to books, you know, I can't even count the number of books!”
Brooks says the idea for a bookstore came after a family road trip and they saw another Black family with a bookstore and they thought, “why not us?"
Black Pearl Books has plans to open a brick and mortar at some point in the future to create a space that feels like home allowing others to collaborate and have a safe place to talk about the difficult things like race and humanity.