News December 15, 2020 at 01:51 pm

Denver’s beloved Tattered Cover now America’s largest Black-owned independent bookstore

Ama Nunoo December 15, 2020 at 01:51 pm

December 15, 2020 at 01:51 pm | News

Denver's Tattered Cover bookstore is the people's favorite. Photo: The Business Journal

Tattered Cover, after being badly hit by the coronavirus, has been sold to local investors, making the Colorado-based bookstore the country’s largest Black-owned independent bookstore. Bended Page LLC; a group of investors led by David Back and Kwame Spearman will be taking over the bookstore.

Denver native Spearman and his partner Back worked with the bookstore’s owners Len Vlahos and Kristen Gilliga to ensure that the bookstore is kept within the community.

“I’m a strong advocate of BLM, and one of the things we will ensure is that Tattered Cover is always on the right side of history.

“It’s kind of a cool twist of events and something that we obviously hope to add to the dialogue that BLM and some of the other movements have begun,” said Spearman, who is Black and the new CEO of Tattered Cover.

“We want to preserve what we all love about The Tattered Cover and give it the necessary capital to beat COVID,” he added.

A message was published on the store’s website earlier this year that warned “the impact of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic made it clear that Tattered Cover was going to need not only new management,” but a new breath of financial life, according to reports

“When COVID hit in March and we shut everything down, it was very clear to us this was going to be financially devastating to the business,” Vlahos said.

“And we were undercapitalized to begin with, so we started to look for a cash infusion. Serendipitously, David reached out … Since then, they’ve created their own self-guided course in bookselling by educating themselves about the industry.”

This is not the first time the bookstore is changing ownership or management, but this is the one that is critical to saving the people’s beloved bookstore that holds over 500 events a year for its community and beyond. Joyce Meskis, an ardent advocate for the rights of readers, literacy and free expression in America, was the long-time owner of the place till Len Vlahos and Kristen Gilligan purchased the stores in 2015.

The bookstore opened in 1971 and has been bringing people together for nearly five decades.

In the 21st century, one would think physical bookstores and libraries no longer interest people but Tattered Cover, which stocks a wide range of books and many interesting gift items offers an experience that cannot be downloaded to its users, per the store’s site.

The store has been suffering before the pandemic. At the peak of the Black Lives Matter protests, the co-owners decided not to take a stance on it by way of not using their platform to stand in solidarity with the movement and chose to remain neutral. The backlash that followed was immense, and they retracted their initial stance and apologized.

Spearman and Back have a long history with the bookstore and are passionate to see it running smoothly regardless of the dynamics presented by the pandemic.

“We grew up in Denver, grew up loving the Tattered Cover. We were there all the time. My first job was there. It’s a really wonderful place in Denver, and also the Tattered Cover provides the best retail experience,” Back said to Denverite.

The new owners being natives of Denver know the sense of community the bookstore offers and so they intend to keep the place up and running for the next 50 years and more.

Tattered Cover already has four locations in Denver with two more to open in 2021.

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