WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) – Anyone can attest that 2020 has been a year of firsts. The challenge of doing something new is compounded by what's affecting us all, the COVID-19 pandemic.
Opening the first Saturday in September, Waterloo will have an independent bookstore, the Soul Book Nook which could also be the first Black-owned, independent bookstore in Iowa.
"Help people relax, heal, and recover. That's why I did it, because I felt like we needed something that could buffer from so much negative and destructive energy," said Amber Collins, the owner of the Soul Book Nook.
Collins always dreamed of opening a bookstore but not during a pandemic. She noted that what drives her was a feeling akin to "if not now, then when."
The store will require a mask upon entrance and also a fresh pair of gloves, provided on entrance. While it's not convenient, Collins says social distancing and a mask is required under current state regulations. Providing a fresh set of gloves is done on the part of the bookstore.
"We're going to social distance, so which means we have to have a limited number of people in the building," Collins said, hoping that customers will be understanding. "So if we ask you to wait, I don't want them to be offended or lost a customer. They need to know that we're trying to stay open."
Collins said she's always been a book lover and that her love of literature was inspired by her mother. Her passion for the written word gained permanence when her mother worked at Los Angeles' renowned Black bookstore, The Aquarian Bookshop.
She's carrying on the tradition of reading by running the Soul Book Nook with her 5 daughters and the support of her aunts.
Collins says she's always found solace in the ability to escape within the pages of a good story.
"You know, I didn't grow up rich. If I felt like I didn't look as good as the other girls because I had whole in my stocking, I read a book, and I wasn't that because I was Peter Pan."
One way they're stocking the shelves, other than traditional ordering, is through donations, which will be quarantined for 24 hours in an effort to let any potentially harmful germs die off.
The escapism of the books that will soon fill the shelves also inspires how Collins hopes to help teens of color see themselves represented.
"They don't have to be limited to a book where the story is always told that they ended up in teen pregnancy or the hero in the story is in a gang and gets killed, then their friends got killed. They need to see themselves in history, they need to see themselves in science, they need to see themselves adding to the power, education, and history of the country," Collins said.
One of her goals is to provide more books by African Americans and for African Americans. Her goal overall is giving people a quiet space to dive into a book.
"Everyone is welcome. There is a book here for everyone," Collins said.
Editor's Note: The state is not requiring a fresh set of gloves as originally implied.