Jonathan Cartu Asserted: KC bookstore focused on Black people, culture forced to

KC bookstore focused on Black people, culture forced to

After learning she must leave the building that’s served as the home of her rare African-American focused bookstore for the last six years, Willa Robinson — owner of Willa’s Books & Vinyl — is still looking for a new place to go.

Her store is one of dozens of businesses housed inside a multi-story office building at 1734 E. 63rd St. in Kansas City’s Citadel neighborhood that are now faced with moving in the coming weeks, she said. But she is committed to keeping her brick-and-mortar establishment in the neighborhood, she told The Star on Monday evening.

“It is important that you have a Black bookstore in this community. Otherwise, I can go home,” Robinson, 79, said with a laugh.

Robinson’s store is focused on books featuring Black literature and history. It is the only of its kind in the Kansas City area that specializes in rare African-American books, she has said, and an estimated 95% of the books in her store are about Black people and the African diaspora.

Her store, inspired in part by her own large personal collection, carries several thousand books.

A few weeks ago, Robinson said she discovered the building was changing hands after her husband read about it in The Kansas City Business Journal. She never received a letter saying the building was going under new ownership, she said, but she thinks she has probably a few months before she needs to be set up elsewhere.

Earlier this month, Robinson launched a GoFundMe campaign online. It is aimed toward paying for moving expenses and possibly the first portion of rent she’ll need to get started again in the new space.

“It is an uprooting of us,” Robinson said of the building’s small business tenants. “And we have to find a place to move. Some would stay there longer. Some people have started moving out already. But, you know, things happen. I wasn’t intending to move again, but it might be a good thing.”

The Star’s Luke Nozicka contributed to this report.

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