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Black-owned bookstore sells more than just books

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Joyce Smith, of Smith & Hannon Bookstore, has moved her store to Over-the-Rhine. Photo provided

By Jada Carter

The Cincinnati Herald

Joyce Smith owns the only Black-owned bookstore in Cincinnati. Smith & Hannon Bookstore moved in April from the Underground Railroad Freedom Center to Over-the-Rhine on Vine Street.

Smith received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati and her master’s degree from Xavier University. She has held many career titles from school principal to assistant superintendent for urban schools.

She began her career as a substitute teacher for multiple schools and later became principal at St. Mark Elementary School. Soon after that she spent her years in the school office for diagnostic school. After spending most of her career mentoring/guiding youth, she decided to retire. She said she enjoyed reading more pieces of literature during her time being retired.

Smith says she always envisioned owning her own business, and specifically, a bookstore. She started her entrepreneurship in 2003, when she opened her first bookstore in Bond Hill on California Avenue. It was named Smith & Hannon Bookstore. After spending 13 years at her first location, another opportunity came for Smith, so she soon transitioned her bookstore location to inside the Underground Railroad Freedom Center. “Moving to another location enabled me to start a new journey with my bookstore,” Smith says.

Smith’s bookstore is unique from other bookstores. She carries more than just books, also offering clothing, jewelry, greeting cards, carvings, journals and more.

She collects all types of books – antique books, children books, best sellers, first edition books, fiction and nonfiction.

Her best sellers are Becoming by Michelle Obama, and also The Truths We Hold: An American Journey by Kamala Harris. Her bestselling books for children is the Who Was …? series published by Grosset & Dunlap, recognizing individuals who made an impact in history. One of Smith’s favorite readings is Stamp from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, by Ibram X. Kendi.

Smith discussed the importance of physical-copy books rather than digital-copy books: “Black literature in my opinion goes out of print rapidly. If you haven’t read any Black pieces of literature, they are new to you.” She says that physical copy books will always be here, no matter how popular e-books become.

Her advice to youth, “If you never tried, you’ll never know if you can succeed. Follow your dreams, know yourself, and follow your dreams. You have to work at it.”

Stop by Smith & Hannon Bookstore at 1405 Vine Street, Cincinnati, 45202, in OTR.

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