But he understood one thing about opening a book store: location, location, location.
“One of the things I wrote in my book — and specifically since I’m in the book business — is if you are selling black literature, you cannot open a store in a predominantly white neighborhood and expect to succeed,” Reid said.
Throughout the past four years of a very weak economy, thousands of small businesses have been forced to downsize or close their doors entirely.
But Reid’s store, DARE Books, has stayed open and continues to plow forward despite the lingering impact of the recession. In business since 1982, Reid recently relocated his bookstore from New York City to Central Florida. The bulk of his book sales have been to the U.S. Department of Education — primarily focusing on the need for children to continue reading.
In 2007, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a decision that had an impact on his decision to relocate to Florida.
“The mayor decided not to do business with small businesses,” said Reid. “It wasn’t just my contract — there were 100 book vendors, and we all lost our contracts. If you did not do $5 million in sales in 2007, you could not bid. Only four of the 100 book vendors were eligible to bid — 96 book sellers were automatically, basically put out of business.”
As a top bookseller in the country, Ingram was one of the companies that got the contract, even though Dare Books made more than $1 million in sales.
Mayor Bloomberg’s decision not only impacted bookstores, Reid said, but inadvertently shut down other small businesses as well.
“He didn’t do it to just the ‘book people,’ ” Reid said, “but he did it to the school bus companies, he did it to the stationery companies, to the custodial companies, he did it to all the small businesses that operated with the City of New York. He eliminated the small businesses and gave everything (contracts) to the big guys. Staples got the stationery contract, Coke and Pepsi were locked out, and he gave everything to Snapple.”
When opening a business, it’s vital to do a “market research to find out what people are looking for in whatever area — and locate in that area,” said Reid. Though DARE Books is not located in a predominantly black neighborhood, his store is in an area that allows anyone to conveniently purchase black literature.
Technology has played a great role in the struggle of bookstores, in particular during an economic downturn, Reid said. According to the Small Business Development Center, “Bookstore owners are coming under pressure from the many digital alternatives to traditional print books,” and that “The bookstore business is far from dead and offers interesting opportunities for independent booksellers.” Free wi-fi, hosting events, coffee shops and free refreshments are all a part of the new trend for booksellers.
In the midst of following his dream in promoting literature, Reid said he’s had the pleasure of meeting a lot of influential black authors and many famous writers have held book signings at DARE. As a result of his love for literature, Reid walked and talked at length with the late actor Ossie Davis and many other popular and influential people.
“Ossie Davis was a very, very nice person, floodgates are starting to open,” said Reid.
DARE is the acronym for Desmond A. Reid Enterprises, and the store’s owner is quite optimistic about DARE Books’ future, as the word continues to spread about his new location at 245 N. U.S. 17-92 in Longwood. He believes the word truly is spreading throughout Central Florida. He’s attended book fairs at the University of Central Florida, met people from numerous book clubs, as well as Caribbean writers and The Orlando’s Renaissance Writer’s Guild and many others.
“It’s my destiny to be here,” he said. “I am very pleased and relieved to see the floodgates have opened.”
Dare Books can be reached at 407-673-DARE or by email at DesmondR@darebooks.com, or by logging on to the DARE Books website at www.Darebooks.com.