One of the best parts of organizing this new initiative has been working with our Roxbury programming partners: the Roxbury Cultural District, the Boston Public Library’s Dudley Branch, and, of course, the beloved neighborhood institution, the Frugal Bookstore. We talked with Frugal owners Clarrissa and Leonard Egerton, who grew up in Roxbury and are proud local business owners, about how they started the bookstore, what are some popular Roxbury reads, and what they’re most excited about with the October 13 launch of the Boston Book Festival in Roxbury.
1) How did you come up with the idea of starting Frugal Bookstore?
We were part of a business in Roxbury, Frugal Furniture, owned by Robert Romanow, and within the furniture store, he had a section with books—all primarily by authors of colors. I was looking for a job, and Mr. Romanow asked me if I would help him build a book business. I had never seen so many books by people of color in one place, and it just looked beautiful.
It made me very proud, because I am an avid reader and I know how important it is for all people to see themselves in the literature they read.
It became my mission to assist Mr. Romanow, and when he saw how dedicated I was, he offered to sell me the bookstore portion of his business. I asked Clarrissa if she wanted to join me in building a business that could serve the very community we both grew up in, and she came on board.
A space opened up across from the furniture store, we applied for it, and we moved the books into it. We kept the name Frugal Bookstore simply because it was becoming known, and why fix something that is not broken. And that’s how Clarrissa and I became owners of the Frugal Bookstore.
2) You recently moved locations to be right in the heart of Dudley Square. What impact has that had on your business?
The impact of moving to Dudley Square has been quite measurable. The fact that a person can walk by and see a bookstore and stop in has garnered us more support, patronage, and business. We have been able to partner with different organizations in Dudley Square. Being in the center of Roxbury, where so many people pass through each day, has given people the chance to see us who may have never seen us in our other store. Visibility and diverse people coming into the bookstore have had the biggest impact on our business.
3) What’s the best part of running a bookstore in Roxbury?
The best part is that we are the only bookstore in Roxbury. We are one of a kind.
Our families and the people we’ve grown up with can watch and see us thrive and know that it is very possible to own a business in the very community you grow up in. And not just any business—one that offers value, a business where you can come in and you light up because you feel proud that it is in Roxbury. Books help people in so many ways, and for us to be able to help the very people we grew up with and give to our community a resource that keeps on giving is definitely the best part of running a bookstore in Roxbury.
4) What’s been popular reading in the neighborhood this year?
That’s a hard question to answer, because the interests within the community are so diverse. There’s no particularly popular reading, but there has been a great deal of focus on starting book clubs within the community, and a great deal of support has been given to us by different organizations.
5) What are you most excited about with the BBF Roxbury program?
The mere fact that it is being held in Roxbury and that we were selected to help is a big deal. BBF coming to Roxbury means we can showcase talent that may not otherwise have been seen by the people who live in Roxbury. It gives the people of Roxbury a chance to be a part of the literary world that seems out of reach sometimes.
Interested in learning more about the Boston Book Festival’s Roxbury edition? Check out the schedule and make plans to join us on October 13!