11 Women-Owned Bookstores Across The U.S.

Featured image: Clay Williams
The coziest and best-curated bookstores are usually owned by people who are like me—women who believe in the power of the written word in understanding ourselves and each other.

There’s nothing more relaxing than browsing between shelves, taking in the smell of newly pressed books and exploring the possibilities of beautiful storytelling. 

Even beyond this, bookstores can be spaces for rich self-discovery and community building. Below, we’ve rounded up 11 women-owned bookstores across the country that are safe havens for anybody in need of solace and a good story. 

Marcus Books, Oakland, CA

Founded by Dr. Raye Gilbert Richardson and her husband Dr. Julian in 1960, Marcus Books is the oldest known Black-owned bookstore in the U.S. Though both founders have passed away, the bookstore was inherited by their granddaughter, Blanche Richardson, who has been maintaining its mission to uplift Black voices and stories so readers can see themselves on the shelves.

Author Kayla Miller answers questions from the audience during an event at The Book & Nook. Photo: Courtesy of The Book & Nook
Elizabeth’s Bookshop & Writing Centre, Akron, Ohio

Founded by author and activist Rachel E. Cargle, Elizabeth’s Bookshop & Writing Centre is a unique bookstore that is dedicated to creating more accessibility and representation in literature. The bookshop’s curation of books emphasizes the work of QTBIPOC writers, brazenly highlighting work that is usually erased and underappreciated. And if you purchase something from this store, a percentage of the sale will be donated to The Loveland Foundation’s Therapy Fund for Black women and girls (another initiative founded by Cargle).

Photo: Courtesy of Harriet’s Bookshop
Harriet’s Bookshop, Philadelphia, PA

Named after Harriet Tubman, this Black woman-owned bookstore has a stunning interior design and a flawless curation of books that celebrates Black women authors, artists and activists. Last November, the bookshop flooded and the community rallied around its owner Jeannine Cook to help re-open the store in time for Black Friday.

Third House Books, Gainesville, FL

Owned by Cuban-American Heather Halak, Third House Books was founded in response to the closing of local bookstores in the area due to gentrification. Halak’s approach to bookselling is to highlight small press and lesser known books from marginalized voices. Halak is delighted to order any book you’d like, but she probably won’t have best-selling books on hand. She takes online orders too!

Photo: Courtesy of Café con Libros
Café con Libros, Brooklyn, NY

Café con Libros is a dream come true for any woman looking for an affirming literary space. Founded by Afro-Latinx social worker Kalima DeSuze, the organization is an all-in-one bookstore, community space and café. The bookstore’s catalog and event programming seek to push the boundaries of feminist discourse.

Palabras Bilingual Bookstore, Phoenix, AZ

Owned by Chawa Magaña, a first-generation Mexican-American, Palabras Bilingual Bookstore is committed to catering to Spanish-speaking people in Arizona, as well as Anglophone readers. Magaña was inspired by her own experiences growing up exposed to two languages as the daughter of immigrants. She’s turned the bookstore into a community space that highlights diversity in literature, hosts workshops and art exhibitions and maintains a small mutual aid garden.

Photo: Courtesy of Bookends & Beginnings
Bookends & Beginnings, Evanston, IL

Owner of Bookends & Beginnings Nina Barret has always loved words and is a writer herself. For decades, she dreamed of opening her own bookstore in Evanston and was finally able to make it happen in 2014. Now, Bookends & Beginnings has a unique collection of children’s books in 48 languages, including Kudish, Maori and Basque. Barret also often hosts community events for people in the greater Chicago area.

Photo: Courtesy of Avid Bookshop
Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA

Founded by writer Janet Geddis, Avid Bookshop is an independent, community-focused bookstore that has been open for over 10 years. It’s committed to providing a safe space and speaking out about human rights and inequality through community events and the uplifting of banned books. The bookstore purchases all of its supplies locally and self-describes as an ethical business. 

Reparations Club, Los Angeles, CA

Owner Jazzi McGilbert describes her bookstore as a “concept bookshop and creative space.” She took matters into her own hands after finding herself eager to return to the intersection of Blackness and literature. The range of books in Reparations Club includes fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and everything in between, and most of the catalog is made up of Black authors. In an interview with Travel Noire, McGilbert says the store’s mission is to “make space for all kinds of Blackness.”

BEM owners Gabrielle and Danielle Davenport. Photo: Clay Williams
BEM | books & more, Brooklyn, New York

Owned by sisters Gabrielle and Danielle Davenport, BEM is inspired by their grandmother’s initials. Honoring the matriarchal cooking traditions in their family’s history, the duo opened BEM to uplift literature that sits at the intersection of food and Blackness. You’ll find cookbooks, non-fiction, food fiction and poetry, books for young readers and a political home to explore Black food literature like never before. Formerly housed within the Brooklyn-based non-profit BRIC, BEM’s own physical brick-and-mortar location is slated to open later this year.


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May 14, 2024

Marcus Books is a personal favorite! Love the roundup and can’t wait to visit these bookstores.

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