While Cincinnati’s Blue Manatee Literacy Project was able to surmount the obstacles posed by a two-year pandemic, it is unable to withstand the vagaries of a hot market for retail space in the Queen City.

Amanda Kranias, who operates the BMLP in tandem with Kevin Kushman, announced on Wednesday that the 1,200 square-foot bricks-and-mortar bookstore will close on March 13, as the building’s owner did not renew the lease as he “intends to pursue other commercial plans.” Kranias and Kushman intend, however, to maintain BMLP’s online presence as they consider a search for another space to lease.

“While the bricks-and-mortar chapter may be closing, for now,” Kranias wrote, “the BMLP literacy mission continues. We remain active in support of school partners, community engagement, program support and as a source of books via our online presence. Our relationships with publishers and the publishing industry remain intact. Our access to titles and ability to support your purchase of books from an enterprise dedicated to our community's children remains.”

The Blue Manatee launched in 2011 as a children’s bookstore by its founder, Dr. John Hutton, who closed it three years ago to pursue other interests, including Blue Manatee Press, which publishes children's books. Kranias and Kushman reopened it in 2019 as the Blue Manatee Literacy Project and incorporated it as a nonprofit organization that sells both adult and children’s books. Its mission, Kranias told PW during an interview earlier this year, is to “make a difference in Cincinnati by getting books into the hands of under-resourced children.” For every book sold by BMLP, a book is donated to one of the city’s 35,000 students lacking a book at home.

Recalling the successes of the last three years since she and Kushman launched BMLP, Kranias wrote: “Our Buy a Book / Give a Book flagship program has donated over 50,000 new books to children and partner programs across the region. We have initiated reading programs and resourced numerous others to support K-6 students as they tackle the reading challenge, often with significant obstacles to overcome. Most notably, we partnered with Literacy Network of Greater Cincinnati in 2021 to launch the Queen City Book Bank, a permanent reading resource hub, that will scale to provide 350,000 books annually to K-6 students most in need of home libraries and the recognition that they deserve the opportunity to thrive as confident and proficient readers.”

This story has been updated for clarity.