Culture

Kentucky’s Only Black-Owned Bookstore Struggles To Stay Open

By Danielle Dorsey

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Wild Fig Books and Coffee has a jam-packed schedule of weekly workshops, monthly comedy shows, and movie screenings that co-founder April Taylor is optimistic will help the struggling co-op survive the summer. It hasn’t been easy for Kentucky’s only Black-owned bookstore, which has transferred ownership several times since its first iteration closed in 2015. 

Located in the “horse capital” of Lexington, Wild Fig was reopened in a different location by then-owners Crystal Wilkinson and Ronald Davis, but financial troubles forced them to close their doors in 2018. Loyal customers of the bookstore purchased it for $25,000 and transitioned it to a worker cooperative with stakeholders. Wild Fig remains at its second location on North Limestone, but Taylor plans to relocate to a larger space that can accommodate expanded programming.

In order for Taylor to realize this vision, she’ll need to increase Wild Fig’s foot traffic and profit so that the co-op can broker a deal involving delayed loan payments. This month the store was given seven days notice to pay its balance or face eviction. On Tuesday, with less than eight hours until their deadline, Wild Fig was able to come up with the necessary funds thanks to a matching donation from The Highland Center in Tennessee. The last-minute Hail Mary gave the co-op the confidence they needed to keep pursuing their goals. 

Taylor is hoping to prove the bookstore’s lasting potential with a stacked event calendar that includes a celebration of life event in honor of Toni Morrison on Sunday, August 18th, and an unplugged music concert on Friday, August 23. Wild Fig also hosts weekly self-discovery workshops and will be hosting a teen writing workshop beginning in September. 

Co-op members are doing their best to remain hopeful, with many volunteering their time to help keep Wild Fig’s doors open. 

In an interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader, Taylor said, “I would encourage (people to visit) sooner rather than later. We’re at a critical juncture where, if people don’t go ahead and come in if they’re more in love with the idea of our existence than actually supporting us, we may not be able to go on and still be here.”

If you’re not local to Kentucky, you can support Wild Fig by donating to their Patreon here.

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