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This bookstore is history — black history

The Brooklyn Paper
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A prominent black bookstore and publisher in Fort Greene will close next month, its owner says, because the Department of Education cancelled a lucrative deal to buy textbooks from it.

DARE Books has been catering to an African-American audience on Lafayette Avenue since 1987. But since 2004, the small retail shop and book publisher has stayed afloat thanks to more than $2.3 million in sales to the city school system.

“The book business is a very tough business. It’s partly because I’ve had additional income [from the city] that I’ve been able to stay open,” said owner Desmond Reid (the bookstore’s name, DARE, is short for Desmond A. Reid Enterprises).

“I have to shut down. This location is too expensive to maintain without that contract.”

Reid owns the high-valued building, which is across the street from the Brooklyn Academy of Music. He expects to sell the building by the late spring or early summer and relocate to Orlando.

The bulk of his sales have always been children’s books, such as “Black Mother Goose,” a collection of nursery tales, which he published.

“I’ve paved the way to get some of these multicultural books into the school system,” Reid told The Brooklyn Paper. “My main concentration was to get these books to children.”

But in recent years, his bread and butter has come from providing more mainstream books to city schools, such as “Master of the Senate,” the Lyndon Johnson biography by Robert Caro, and “When Washington Crossed the Delaware,” by Lynne Cheney.

The Department of Education said it won’t place new orders with Reid because it consolidated its vendors to a smaller group of large book dealers.

“We have changed our purchasing practices to focus on large bulk purchase and we have seen a savings of more than 30 percent since we implemented the change,” said Marge Feinberg, a spokeswoman for the public school system.

But fans of DARE Books lament that the reported savings to taxpayers has actually inflicted collateral damage on the beloved, minority-run bookshop.

“Our museum often went there to get rare books that we couldn’t find elsewhere to sell in our own gift shop,” said Laurie Cumbo, director of the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, which is on Hanson Place nearby.

“It’s another casualty of the domino effect of businesses of color closing down,” Cumbo said — a trend unleashed by gentrification that has swept through neighborhoods like Downtown Brooklyn and Fort Greene, which last year claimed 4W, a Fulton Street gallery.

“It’s representative the death of a dream when you see these businesses close,” Cumbo said.

Updated 5:11 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Reader from Fort Greene says:
Many now famous writers held book signings at DARE. Shame on those who only bailout those businesses which are "too big to fail."
Feb. 10, 2009, 10:57 am
Nicola from Fort Greene says:
Very sad to see a small, local business shut down. Perhaps if he had diversified and done more promotion and events, he could have stayed afloat. Hindsight is 20/20 I know, but there have been efforts going back at least a year that speak to the fact that Fort Greene is absolutely desperate for a general book store.
Feb. 10, 2009, 2:50 pm
reader from fort greene says:
Bloomberg's board of Ed believes DARE is too small to succeed.
Feb. 10, 2009, 3 pm
Michael from Bay Ridge says:
It's always sad to see a small bsness shut down, but perhaps the big problem was that his shop was too focused on a narrow segment.

The owner talks about having promoted "multicultural" books, but his books are about african american culture, not multiculturalism.

In any event, I hope that he enjoies living in Florida.
Feb. 11, 2009, 8:37 am
Jeanie from Fort Greene says:
This is tragic. It is very sad to learn that it's the Dept. of Ed.'s short-term economic view that is forcing Mr. Reid to close, when the long-term benefits of his and many other independent bookstores staying open are clear. But I'm not sure you can name gentrification as the cause of the closing. And the statement that gentrification claimed 4W is refuted by the owner in the Brooklyn Paper's own article linked to in this article! Fort Greene is changing fast, in many ways too fast, and this worries me. I've lived in the neighborhood for six years, and value its racial diversity and middle- as opposed to upper-class status. I don't want this to change. It is important that the residents of Fort Greene go forward with eyes open, in the spirit of community that makes it such a great place, but we should also be careful of catch-all words like "gentrification"--sometimes it just comes down to greed.
April 15, 2009, 5:27 pm
donna from neponsit says:
what is the name of the chilferns book regarding the man who ignores the homeless man and then he becomes a homeless man at the end of the book?
Aug. 1, 2009, 9:04 am
donna from neponsit says:
what is the name of the childerns book regarding the man who ignores the homeless man and then he becomes a homeless man at the end of the book?
Aug. 1, 2009, 9:04 am
Magdalene Robinson from Ozone Park says:
Has black cultures lost their importance to this city? I thought we prided ourselves on the mosaic of cultures that makes up this city and especially the Boro of brooklyn. When the Education Department excludes such a significant black bookstore as DARE from its preferred list of vendors, one cannot help feeling it is systematic exclusion.
Feb. 20, 2010, 6:31 am
Magdalene Robinson from Ozone Park says:
Has black cultures lost their importance to this city? I thought we prided ourselves on the mosaic of cultures that make up this city and especially the Boro of Brooklyn. When the Education Department excludes such a significant black bookstore as DARE from its preferred list of vendors, one cannot help feeling it is systematic exclusion.
Feb. 20, 2010, 6:33 am
Magdalene Robinson from Ozone Park says:
Have black cultures lost their importance to this city? I thought we prided ourselves on the mosaic of cultures that make up this city and especially the Boro of Brooklyn. When the Education Department excludes such a significant black bookstore as DARE from its preferred list of vendors, one cannot help feeling it is systematic exclusion.
Feb. 20, 2010, 6:34 am
dadayi from Brownsville says:
I think he was a little too dependent on the Dept of ed for his business. Dept of Ed is bureaucratic! This was OK in the beginning but later needed to become a more community based and user friendly bookstore. He could have opened up the store once in a while whereby people could come in, sit and listen to someone read from a book or give a lecture on something of literary interest to the community or listen to some jazz. No, he woud not become rich but he would have been able to stay in business and continue to be an asset to the community.
June 3, 2011, 10:21 pm

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