Nine-year-old Sibanye (Swahili for "we are one") of Baltimore is closing. According to owner Robin Green, her "book-tique," which has stocked 15,000 titles, including many self-published books, as well as clothing, hair-care products and traditional gift items, was especially hard hit by Hurricane Isabel.
"We've been struggling all year," Green told PW. "The year 2003 was just an economically disastrous year. Books are not milk and eggs. The straw that broke the camel's back was Hurricane Isabel, which cancelled the Baltimore Book Festival. We bring 50 authors and do 25% of our book sales at the festival." The festival's rain date coincided with the first major snowstorm of the year.
Although Green is in the midst of packing up the store on West Rogers Avenue, Sibanye may re-open at another location. Two customers have contacted Green about the possibility of moving Sibanye or starting a new store. Meanwhile Green is looking to restructure the store's Web site (www.sibanye.com), hosted by Book Sense, to handle direct sales.
"When I opened nine years ago," said Green, "the only literary book signings were at the Enoch Pratt Free library. One of my goals was to bring African-American authors and artists to Baltimore." The store hosted many events for both big-name authors and self-published writers. "Somebody had to say, 'Let's have a launch party. Let's at least get you on your way,' " said Green. Despite the store's struggles, her commitment to the literary life of Baltimore remains unabated. Green plans to continue to operate the store's nonprofit arm, Ripe Harvest Foundation, which she founded in 2001. Through Ripe Harvest she introduced an annual African-American children's book festival and writers' workshop to Baltimore and brought African-American authors to the Baltimore Book Festival.