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Call and Response Books starting new chapter with store in Chicago's Hyde Park

Chicago's Call and Response Books starts new chapter in Hyde Park
Chicago's Call and Response Books starts new chapter in Hyde Park 03:28

CHICAGO (CBS) – An independent bookstore is coming to Hyde Park with a focus on amplifying marginalized voices.

Call and Response Books plans to debut in a couple of months. Based on the turnout at their most recent event, the city's readers seem ready to welcome the shop into town.

Sometimes, for something to come together, it must first be taken apart.

"We currently have some people helping us remove the tile from the floor, so that's going to take a few days to just get rid of all this debris in here," said Courtney Bledsoe.

Bledsoe owns the soon-to-open shop, Call and Response Books, and right now, she's overseeing all the construction.

"It's the first day, and everything's going really, really quickly, which is fantastic," she said.

She works from her makeshift office, in the blank canvas that will soon be the entrance to her bookstore.

"I have had this dream of having a bookstore for a few years now, but it still felt like just like a dream that I would have, like maybe when I was like, much older or I had more time on my hands or something like that," Bledsoe said.

But instead, it's happening now with the opening date scheduled for April.

"People have been emailing, sending messages. You know, they are trying to get their books that are written by Black women, Black people, people of color," she said.

Bledsoe's one of just a handful of booksellers dedicated to centering Black, Brown, and Indigenous authors, which means her inbox stays full.

"Lots of local authors, also authors across the country have been reaching out just about their books to see if they can get stuff from the store," she said.

The time she does have on her hands grows increasingly sparse between getting the storefront ready and hosting events around the city.

"It's been great to just like introduce the store to people and also just let them know, like I'm doing a few events in the city as we're getting this space to build out," Bledsoe said.

This week's event is at First Sip Cafe in the city's Uptown neighborhood.

"I want to just collaborate with some other establishments in the city that were owned by people of color specifically, and so that's why I got the idea to also reach out to First Sip," she said.

They're collaborating on an adult book fair.

"I just wanted to emulate the feel of a scholastic book fair because I feel like you're overwhelmed with books. The scholastic book fair. There's no way you can escape the books at a scholastic book fair," she said.

"I felt like there weren't a lot of instances of that happening as adults. I was like, I would love to see like scholastic book fairs for adults happening, and so that was kind of the idea behind it."

The event was set to begin at 7 p.m., but by then, a line was forming out the door.

"This is, like, really crazy. It's like, 7:05 p.m., and there's, like, a million people here," she said. 

Bledsoe had brought over 200 books with her. After the two-hour event ended, she sold nearly 75% of her inventory.

"I feel really excited. Like, this is an insane number of people," she said.

Over a hundred customers and a little over $3,000 in sales, just in one night, and they haven't even seen the storefront yet.

Call and Response Books is meant to be more than just a bookstore. Bledsoe plans on hosting community events for all ages and inviting people to read, shop, and stay a while.

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