African-American owned bookstore in Lexington closing at end of the month

Published: Feb. 11, 2020 at 5:43 PM EST
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A Lexington bookstore will be closed by the end of the month.

Wild Fig Books and Coffee says it can no longer afford rent at their North Limestone building.

The store is the only African-American owned bookstore in Kentucky.

A disagreement between the owners of the bookstore and the owners of the building could lead to the store closing later this month.

"We no longer want to give further community effort into a space we can no longer be present in. We would rather take that time energy and effort into finding a space that we can be long-term present in," said Worker-Owner Sarah Williams.

The store is also a meeting place and workspace for people who live nearby.

"A place you can come to find all diverse kinds of people from across Lexington," said Wiliams.

The store has been here for almost five years, but Williams says that that could be changing in a matter of weeks.

"What really has shut the door in our face for staying at this location is their unwillingness to extend the lease which is always been a part of the option, and willingness to sell the building or state a purchase price," said Williams.

Wiliams says the owners told them they would have the option to purchase the building and gave verbal agreements about a rent to own plan.

One of those owners, Griffin Vanmeter, said he is sorry the business is considering closing and believes they provide a valuable space to the community. Vanmeter also said the rent to own option was an idea workers proposed but they never figured out how to make that work. He said he would love them to purchase the building but there was no mechanism in place to make that a reality.

At one point the owners did let the business skip paying rent for several months.

The building was purchased for $35,000, but Vanmeter said they have put more than $100,000 worth of renovations into it.

Williams says the $1,100 rent is too much for the store to be able to survive.

She says cases like this are an example of gentrification and is changing North Limestone.

"It also keeps people living in these neighborhoods for generations of their families no longer able to afford rent let alone purchase the properties that are now priced the way that they are," said Williams.

Those worker-owners are planning a community meeting this weekend, so that affected can come together to plan the next move for the bookstore.

That community meeting is this Sunday at 3:00 p.m. at their location on North Limestone.

SUBJECT: MEDIA ADVISORY -Tuesday, February 11, 2020 Wild Fig Bookstore Closing Due to Gentrification Displacement,...

Posted by Wild Fig Books and Coffee on Tuesday, February 11, 2020