Eso Won Books, one of the few remaining African-American bookstores in the country, will move to a new location a few yards away from its current home in Los Angeles. The building where Eso Won is currently housed was sold and the new landlord, Yoav Botach, offered the owners a smaller space at greatly reduced rent.
“We’re moving from 3,200 square feet to about 1,500 square feet,” says Eso Won co-owner James Fugate. “It’ll be enough room for us, though. We’ll still be able to seat fifty or sixty people inside for our signings.” The 25-year old store is known for its successful author events and community gatherings, and moved to the Leimert Park neighborhood in 2007. Leimert Park is one of the premier cultural and arts centers of black Los Angeles, and Botach recently bought seven buildings on its primary commercial street, Degnan Boulevard.
Botach, head of Botach Tactical, is an arms dealer with ties to governments all over the world. His headquarters is around the corner from the bookstore. “Some of our customers are upset about this,” says Fugate, “but our negotiations with Botach have been courteous and generous. He’s been very amenable to us. I think he’s going to try to revitalize this street and make improvements. Everything’s going to work out.”
Fugate isn’t too concerned about the smaller size of the new store, explaining that he and his business partner, Tom Hamilton, have never utilized the entire space Eso Won is in now. “We’ve really only used about half, because the area upstairs has just sat empty. It’s been a struggle for a while to make our rent, so this move makes a lot of sense to us. And the new space has air conditioning, which we haven’t had since we’ve been in Leimert Park.” Eso Won will move on March 1. “I’m looking forward to it,” Fugate says.