Darlene Okpo always knew she wanted to own a book store. In kindergarten, she remembers loading up her backpack with way too many books, putting her shoes on the wrong feet and rushing out the door.
She worked at a library at age 15 and was always overdue on returning her books. It was only appropriate that come 2021, she opened Adanne, a bookstore that focuses on selling books that celebrate African American culture.
“I just want to be with my books. I just want to read my books. And I want to be around like-minded people that like reading, too,” says Okpo.
Before opening her store, Okpo spent 10 years working in education. During her time as a teacher in Harlem, she noticed her students weren’t reading. When she asked a child why that was, the student explained that the books in the library were boring. So Okpo lent the girl one of her own favorite Young Adult novels by Black author Tiffany D. Jackson. The young learner finished the book in five days and asked for another.
“I wanted to read about more brown girls that looked like me,” said the girl, when Okpo asked what she loved about the book. The experience was part of the inspiration for Adanne.
Okpo admits it was scary to open a bookstore during a pandemic. But, “I have no regrets,” she says. “My customers are everything.”
She loves to meet new people and to curate a collection that she feels her customers will appreciate.
“It’s knowing what books resonate with my customers.”
The bright and cheery space has a minimalist design that keeps the focus on the books, but it has no shortage of cozy spots to curl up with a good read.
“When people come into the space, they feel like it’s home,” says Okpo.