A Black bookstore/coffeehouse and wine bar planned for Milwaukee’s Bronzeville neighborhood is moving forward with a proposed sale of the city-owned building.
The two-story, 2,640-square-foot building, at 1937 N. King Drive, is to be sold for $50,000 to book store developer Serendipity & Oak Realty LLC, operated by Cetonia Weston-Roy.
Weston-Roy plans to spend $162,000 to convert the vacant building into Niche Book Bar, according to a new Department of City Development report.
The sale of the building needs Common Council approval. It is to be reviewed at Tuesday’s meeting of the council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee.
Weston-Roy’s proposal first surfaced in August, when the Bronzeville Advisory Committee recommended the project to the council.
Weston-Roy, a locally based author and founder of the Black Authors Collective, told committee members in August that Niche Book Bar will focus on “Black literature and red wine.”
It will welcome families with children during the day, serving tea, coffee and baked goods along with selling books, Weston-Roy said.
At night, Niche Book Bar will serve wine by the glass and host book clubs, she said.
The two-story building’s upper floor will be used to host book club meetings and “Airbnb short-term rentals with an emphasis on no parties,” according to the proposal submitted to city officials.
“Niche’s tag line is ‘Find your Niche MKE’ and Niche will be marketed as the only Black-owned bookstore in Wisconsin that also houses a wine bar, café, and rental space for community events,” according to the DCD report.
The Journal Sentinel in 2020 chronicled Weston-Roy’s drive to open Niche Book Bar.
At that time, she sold books by pedaling the Niche Book Bike to parks and public events around Milwaukee, “where she unfurls the collapsible shelves and lines them on all sides with literature from Black writers or books that feature Black characters,” the story said .
“Her dream is to transform the rolling boutique into an actual brick-and-mortar store in Bronzeville, the city’s historical nexus of black culture and entrepreneurship,” it said.
Weston-Roy is the author of “The Misadventures of Toni Macaroni” children’s book series.
The Reader’s Choice, the last Black-owned bookstore in Milwaukee, closed in 2017 after 28 years in business. It was at 1950 N. King Drive.
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