“Since then, we have joined different networks that include resources for indie and Black-owned bookstores all over the country.”
Frugal Bookstore feels like a neighborhood bookstore should. Whether up the ramp and with a choice of either going to the right where the memoirs reside, or to the left to the picture-book section, no matter where your interests or curiosity of text may take you, for such a small space, Frugal is impressively prepared.
Located in Nubian Square, a recognized center of Black culture in Roxbury, there is an emphasis on work by Black authors and creators within Frugal. The diversity of talent is on display, with hood fiction selections just steps away from books on Afro-Latinx history, self-help, cookbooks, and children classics like Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears. Local authors can also be found here, such as Pain and his novel Street Karma.
Frugal’s rise is due to being Boston’s only Black-owned bookstore and in 2020, its owners Clarrissa Cropper and Leonard Egerton experienced an unprecedented amount of sales and media attention. Readers clamored to get copies of some of the buzziest titles in anti-racism material as they were eager to know truths about Black people and people of color’s marginalized place in America, as well as systematic discrimination.
It was last spring that we were at the height of a nationwide reckoning with racialized violence and politics, amongst the COVID-19 pandemic, and Frugal, while thankful for the boatload of orders, was juggling a lot. This humble Nubian Square spot became a hopeful source of truth and unlearning, and as a business, Cropper and Egerton had to manage the dream and distress of any business, which was handling high volume sales.
After a year that was one for the books, Frugal is trekking forward. Dig caught up with Cropper for a Q&A, ahead of Frugal’s appearance this Saturday, June 19, at the Juneteenth Book Fair and their just initiated #FrugalOutside campaign.
What kind of books are customers now or still buying, a year later and since the pandemic began and a revolutionized Black Lives Matter movement?
This time last year most of the books purchased were books that covered anti-racist literature for children and adults. Customers are buying all genres of books this time around.
Are there books that you felt were overlooked during last year’s surge of sales and in relation to social justice, allyship, or Black history?
None that I can think of. The majority of books purchased during that time were books about racial injustice and books about the experiences of Black people in this country starting from slavery [up] until present day.
As owners, were you two in contact with other small/indie/BIPOC booksellers on how to deal with the sudden attention and influx of orders last year and even media attention?
During that crazy, busy time with the influx of business operations and sales, we were in contact with a few other indie bookstores. Since then, we have joined different networks that include resources for indie and Black-owned bookstores all over the country.
Is there a section of the bookstore, or category, topic, or author, beyond the aforementioned, that is unexpectedly popular with customers?
Our children’s section has always been popular with our customers because of the vast selection of BIPOC authors and protagonists. We have seen an increase in romance, sci-fi, and mystery books [too].
While visiting Frugal, I noticed that the shop also carried work by what some would say are controversial figures in the media, such as Candace Owens. Her book Blackout: How Black America Can Make Its Second Escape from the Democrat Plantation is available at your store. If possible, can you explain your willingness to offer books such as hers, considering she [for example] is so regularly vilified and disliked?
We carry a little bit of everything for everybody. We do not let our personal feelings or bias interfere with the selection of books we provide to our customers and we respect the fact that we are all different.
Have you directly heard from the Nubian Square community on what having Frugal Bookstore has been like and means to them? I’m sure you have.
We have had a continuous stream of support from our Nubian community as well as other communities in and around the city. The level of support we’ve received since we have been in business is abundant.
What are some of your favorite books? Childhood favorites and picture books are welcomed as answers. I say that because I was heartened to see Her Stories by Virginia Hamilton in the children’s section, and that’s a long-standing classic for a lot of us (Black) readers.
There are way too many but some of my favorite books include Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe, Please Baby Please by Spike and Tanya Lee, No Disrespect by Sister Souljah, and The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
What can you share about Frugal’s upcoming plans for the shop?
We’re looking forward to having in-person author events again, partnering with more organizations and schools in different districts, and to our growing future.
Frugal is now part of a special, unique legacy of Black-owned stores and businesses. What has that responsibility and recognition been like?
It is a pleasure and we welcome the opportunity to provide literature to our community and all around the world. We are fortunate, blessed and thank everyone who has supported us throughout the years.
Frugal Bookstore is located at 57 Warren Street in Roxbury’s Nubian Square. frugalbookstore.net.