Frugal Bookstore emphasizes community, access to literacy


As Boston’s only Black-owned bookshop, Frugal Bookstore’s motto, “Changing Minds One Book At A Time,” reflects the bookstore’s commitment to offering books at lower prices to promote literacy for people in the community. Photo credit to Harriet Rovniak.

Sharon Chen, news correspondent

Located in the heart of Nubian Square, Frugal Bookstore is Boston’s only Black-owned bookshop. Its motto, “Changing Minds One Book At A Time,” reflects the bookstore’s commitment to offering books at lower prices to promote literacy for people in the community. 

“It is about access to knowledge,” said Perla Mabel, a sales representative at Frugal Bookstore. “If we carry the books, then people have the opportunity to buy them, see them and learn from them.”

For the staff at Frugal Bookstore, the value of reading and writing for people of all ages and backgrounds is essential. 

“You can go [to] a lot of places with reading,” said Kyara Andrade, an assistant at Frugal Bookstore. “It is fundamental to your development as a person and your mind, regardless of whether you went to school formally or informally. You need to know how to read to navigate the world.”

Owners Leonard Egerton and Clarrissa Cropper have been running Frugal Bookstore since 2008. Originally just a small stand of Black-written books inside the corner of a furniture store owned by Egerton’s former boss, the husband and wife duo purchased the store as a separate entity and have been operating it as an independent bookstore since.

When customers first walk into the bookshop, they will be greeted by Frugal Bookstore’s collection of books written by authors of all backgrounds. To the right of the entrance, there is a children’s corner where books with cover illustrations representing a diverse range of children of color sit on shelves. In the middle of the children’s corner is a tiny table and some chairs where children can sit and read.

“We want people to find books that resonate with them,” Andrade said. “Our kids section is really strong because our mission is also about getting young people into reading as early as possible.”

Visitors can also find posters, greeting cards, tote bags and calendars that celebrate Black art and culture.

Pamela King, a retired resident of Jamaica Plain, has been a customer of Frugal Bookstore since its conception.

“This is the only store in Boston where you can find books written by and for Black people. They also have a wide variety of other groups, organizations and communities as well,” King said. “I am glad they have a good children’s section because I can get stuff for my nieces and nephews, as well as other people’s children.”

Andrade said that customers of color find themselves and their families identifying deeply with Frugal Bookstore since there is Black representation in every corner of the store. 

“You can come in to find not only books but the bags and other products that actually have people who look like us on them,” Andrade said. “It helps us feel more connected to ourselves and gives us the space to learn more about where we come from and where we are headed.” 

Located in Roxbury, Frugal Bookstore has become a space for numerous community events. The bookstore frequently hosts book readings and poetry slams that foster a connection between Black writers, their stories and people in the community. Frugal Bookstore also provides local and non-local authors the opportunity to sell their books with book-signing events. 

“When the [Boston Public Library’s] Roxbury branch was closed down, Frugal Bookstore offered to do a story hour for children,” King said.

The staff at Frugal Bookstore are passionate about emphasizing the value of connection. Mabel said the owners cultivate relationships with their customers, putting the community first in their efforts. 

“We always build connections with everyone that comes in. It’s very important for everyone to feel like they are a part of the bookstore,” Mabel said.

A principal component of Frugal Bookstore is its welcoming environment that the owners are keen to establish. Beyond just a business, it has become an all-inclusive place where people in the community can grow up.

“I love the family vibe that Clarrissa and Leonard have created,” Andrade said. “There is a lot of love in this space.”

Lena Clark, a fourth-year economics and political science combined major at Northeastern University, was passing by when she noticed Frugal Bookstore from outside and felt compelled to come in. 

“The place has a really cool vibe, good energy,” Clark said. “[For] some bookstores, you walk in and it feels very pretentious. But in here, there’s a good mix of different types of literature, music is playing and it just feels very homey. It feels like a place you can sit down.”

For Frugal Bookstore, it is not just about selling books. It is about what they carry, the people they highlight and the stories that they share. The bookstore offers a rewards program to its customers, as well as many discounts. 

“Frugal Bookstore is the best: good vibes, good books, good people,” Andrade said.  “It is a gem in Roxbury and it deserves to be known about, protected and frequented.”

Editor’s note: Frugal Bookstore caught fire on Feb. 14. They are welcoming public donations to restore their children books’ corner from water damage.