The largest African-American Bookstore located in St. Louis shares their story during COVID-19
As you walk into EyeSeeMe Bookstore, one can easily be mesmerized by the beautiful decor, diverse children’s books and a warm learning environment. The bookstore was founded by Jeffrey and Pamela Blair in 2015 and is located in the St. Louis Promise Zone area in North County.
Their goal is to help bridge the cultural divide, so that African American children can benefit from exposure to literature that respectfully mirrors themselves, their culture and their families.
“Raising African American children we found it very difficult finding literature that represented them. We would search the web to find positive imagery for our kids also,” said Jeffrey. “This was one of the main motivators for the start of EyeSeeMe Bookstore.”
“It’s not about selling books, it’s about creating a community.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, EyeSeeMe Bookstore has had to rearrange the operation of their business and has also been able to secure a Small Business Resource Loan(SBRL) through the STL Partnership. U.S. Bank’s Market Impact Grant contributed $50,000 to the SBRL that funded the loan. “The STL Partnership has been great providing resources and a pleasure to work with,” said Jeffrey.
The EyeSeeMe Bookstore location is closed due to COVID-19, but EyeSeeMe Bookstore is still taking steps to keep their business alive. Individuals can still choose from an array of unique books and order online. “Due to COVID-19, we are not able to interact with the public or host story time at our location like we used to,” said Jeffrey. “Our calendar was full of events that have been cancelled also. Everything basically changed overnight.”
EyeSeeMe Bookstore has definitely proven that they are more than a bookstore by being very active in the community. Before COVID-19 the company regularly held book fairs at various schools and assisted with teacher professional development and worked with parent organizations on the latest research and literacy of African American history. The bookstore also provides STEM and history classes in their store.
Due to their efforts in the community, EyeSeeMe has also been recognized nationally on the Steve Harvey Show and on NBC.
Despite undergoing changes in their business, Jeffrey is eager to continue to serve the community one book at a time. “People are grateful to have this resource of an African American Bookstore in their community and our books are culturally diverse for all children to enjoy,” said Blair. “We want to continue to stay in business and make a difference as long as we can.”
For more information about EyeSeeMe Bookstore visit their website here.