Saturday, May 24, 2008

Eco-Libris' bookstores series: interview with Marva Allen of Hue-Man Boostore and Cafe

Starting few weeks ago with the interview of James “Surendra” Conti of East West Bookstore, we continue in our presentations of the bookstores that are part of our bookstores program and the people behind them.

Today we have the pleasure to present you with the
Hue-Man Bookstore and Cafe of Harlem, NY and its co-owner and managing partner, Marva Allen.

When I entered Hue-Man Bookstore and Cafe few months ago, I knew immediately I arrived to a unique bookstore. The bookstore located in the heart of Harlem, New York has established itself as an important part of the commercial revival of Harlem, becoming the largest and best-known African-American bookstore in the U.S.

This focus is very clear from the minute you enter the store - the majority of the 4,000-square-foot bookstore's inventory comprises titles by or about African Americans, with a close of New York Times bestsellers and titles by authors from the Caribbean and African Diaspora.

Hue-Man was opened on Aug. 1, 2002. Between the attendees were rapper Jay-Z, singer Stevie Wonder, and actor Wesley Snipes attended, and poet Maya Angelou provided a special dedication. Since its opening, Hue-Man has developed many community projects and collaborations with local organizations.

One example is the work of the Melvin Van Peebles Foundation (Melvin Van Peebles has joined Hue-Man in 2004). Since 2005, the foundation has worked with first graders from PS 123, the Mahalia Jackson school, to introduce good reading habits and provide them with gift cards to purchase their own books. Many have never entered a bookstore before. Students are brought back to the bookstore for repeat visits once in their second and third grade years to continue to foster good reading habits and a love of literature.

The store god media attention from all over the world in June 2004, when former President Bill Clinton signed 2,000 copies of his autobiography My Life at Hue-Man (photos above of the event are from Hue-Man's website).

Marva Allen joined Hue-Man as a majority partner and CEO in 2004, after being president and a co-owner of USI, a multi-million dollar technology firm in Southfield, MI. Allen brought with her tremendous analytical skills and extensive business and management experience to spearhead the growth of the bookstore. She holds a BSN from SGI in England, a B.S in Biology from the University of Michigan and an M.S in Health & Business Administration.

She is also the recipient of numerous business awards, including The IBM & Kodak Excellence Award, MMBDC Diamond Award, Crain's Business 40 Under 40 Award for significantly achieving in business before her 40th birthday. Allen is currently a member of the Board of Trustees for St. Hope Leadership Academy founded by NBA player Kevin Johnson and a LitWorld, an organization concerned with literacy around the world.

And one last update: On May 13, 2008, Marva was recognized by The New York Urban League for her committement to the community. As a recepient of the The Frederick Dougkas Award, she embodies the mission of the award which was created in 1965 to " honor leaders in the private and public sectors whose contributions to society serve to eliminate racial barriers and promote opportunities for the disadvantaged. " Congrats!

I had the pleasure of interviewing Marva over the email and learn more about Hue-Man:

So tell me a bit about Hue-Man Bookstore. When it all began?

August 2002 with the regentrification of Harlem.

What's the most special characteristic of the store?

It is more than a bookstore. It is a sanctuary that holds a lot of history.

What role the store has in the life of Harlem, where it is located?

We have become a Mecca of culture and a continuation of the long literary history of Harlem.

What changes the store went over in the last couple of years?

hanging marketplace. With the gentrification of Harlem we our name Hue-man is even more relevant. We are updating our inventory to reflect our changing neighborhood.

What do your customers like most about the store?

It warmth and friendly, knowledgeable staff.

Can you tell me about the events in the store?

We have 25 events a month many by well know or celebrity authors. This brings to Harlem a quality not seen before.

What is the best selling book right now?

Audacity of hope and The New Earth

What is the all times best selling book in the store?

Bill Clinton's Memoir

What do you like most about the store?

I love everything about the store. The community, friendships and the amazing rolodex of people that come into Hue-man.

Any special message you want to send to book lovers in New York?

Come spend an afternoon with us, and mother's can have the bet coffee in Harlem while their children listen to Story hours on Saturday from 11-12

Hue-Man Bookstore and Cafe

2319 Frederick Douglass BlvdBetween 124th and 125th StreetsNew York, NY 10027

Monday-Saturday: 10:00 a.m - 8:00 p.m.
Sunday: 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Check out
Hue-Man's events, find yourself a nice sunny morning or afternoon and visit this special bookstore. With their unique inventory, the inviting and warm atmosphere and the coffee shop located in the store, you won't regret it! And of course, don't forget to check at the counter the opportunity to balance out your books with Eco-Libris and receive our sticker on spot.

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: plant a tree for every book you read!