Black-owned independent bookstore aims to give customers an experience

HARTFORD, Conn. — 29-year-old Khamani Harrison of Inglewood, California, was searching for clarity in the midst of unfolding chaos in our country after several police shootings.

“I went to a Black-owned bookstore and found a book that gave me the answers I was looking for and I was like ‘this is what people need to be doing,’” said Harrison. “I want to help become a vehicle of that experience and I wanted to merge it with technology. So, that’s how I came up with The Key Bookstore.”

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Her ideas came to fruition in 2018, and in 2020, she opened a physical location on Park Street in Hartford.

The UCONN graduate said she was inspired to come up with the name of her independent bookstore after reading a few books with the key word in the title.

“I was talking about this part of a book that was just so good that it was the key,” said Harrison. “I was like oh snap! that’s it, these books are the key to everything, anything. So, that’s how I came up with the name.”

Harrison said it’s not only about books at The Key Bookstore.

“It’s a literal experience. That’s why most of the experience is engaged online or virtually or mobilely. We literally take the books and bring them out into the community and bring them to the people. It’s about engaging with the books and sharing that experience with other people. We do NFTs, we’re getting into the Metaverse, there’s so many ways we can position books with technology and that’s what The Key Bookstore is about.”

There’s a vast selection of books, audiobooks, and e-books available to the bookstore’s customers online, and a more curated selection at the store’s physical location.

“In the store, we curate for Afrocentricity, spirituality, environmentalism, and entrepreneurship, and then we have a huge selection of diverse children’s books,” said Harrison.

Technology plays a large role in Harrison’s work to expand her business’ reach beyond just in-person customers, some customers in other parts of the country were able to find The Key Bookstore after a list of suggested books for allies of the African-American community went viral.

“Books are an experience that’s everlasting and it can be merged with technology,” said Harrison. “Just because technology is here doesn’t mean books are dead, it’s enhancing the experience.”

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As she works to enhance that experience for customers, she hopes they have a strong sense of pride and responsibility in their communities.

“Every dollar that they spend here, they literally see the seeds being invested and becoming a bigger experience,” said Harrison. “I want them to feel proud of that and that whatever they want from the key, they can have and they can get, they can become, so come be a part of it.”

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A crowdfunding campaign is currently underway to help The Key Bookstore expand.

“Our businesses need people’s help,” Harrison said. “It’s beyond sales, we really need investments to sustain and grow, and give our customers what we want in comparison to big box stores.”

The Key Bookstore can be found on Facebook, Twitterand Instagram

Symphonie Privett is an anchor and host of The Buzz at FOX61 News. She can be reached at sprivett@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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