She wants to pay homage to Black literary icons.
Nikki High was a communications professional at Trader Joe’s for 15 years before she got the idea to step out and become an entrepreneur, AfroTech reports. The death of her grandmother sparked a trip back to Africa, High reframed her duty and commitment while there and returned to the states with a newfound purpose - creating a safe space to pay homage to Black literary icons.
“I was feeling all the good energy. ‘Yes I could do this.’ So when I came home, I just started looking at different retail spaces,” recalled High.
The idea of “Octavia’s Bookshelf,” a bookstore dedicated to Octavia Butler in the author’s hometown of Pasadena, California, was an idea that High had been sitting on for nearly a decade. When she finally got the opportunity to act on her dream, she thought that she would rely mostly on her savings, tweeting about the project online.
It turns out, others were really invested in High’s efforts, the post going viral and racking up 5.1 million views and a subsequent GoFundMe which spurred donations to the tune of $22,000. With the universe aligning like that, high knew it was now truly time to create the bookstore she imagined.
“I wanted [my bookstore] to be completely independent so that I would not have to compromise my values,” said High.
Now open, the store is a reminder of Butler’s life and legacy. High also pays homage to other notable Black woman authors including Audre Lorde and Toni Morrison. They host regular in store signings with authors and High makes sure to source her literary material from other independent BIPOC-owned businesses that are not circulating in major online retailers.
Octavia’s Bookshelf is now open, located at 1361 N. Hill Ave. in Pasadena, CA. You can also order your books online here.
Congratulations! We can't wait to visit!
Cover photo: Meet Nikki High, the owner of Pasadena’s first Black-owned bookstore/Photo Courtesy of Erik Pedersen/Orange County Register