How MahoganyBooks adapted to the pandemic and racial justice movement

Growing a business around Black literature amid a movement for racial justice

It’s been an unpredictable year, especially for small business owners like Ramunda and Derrick Young, who own and operate MahoganyBooks, a bookstore specializing in books about the Black experience and African American culture. As the pandemic, then the movement for racial equity swept the nation, the Youngs have faced a series of challenges to adapt their business – first to a home-bound, comfort-seeking customer they knew well, and then to a brand new customer interested in education about racism and the Black experience. The Youngs join the Retail Gets Real podcast this week to talk more about the challenges they’ve faced and what they’ve learned about growing their business in unprecedented times.



MahoganyBooks started online thirteen years ago as a vision to bring access to Black books to a broader range of people. The Youngs opened their D.C. store in 2017, and have since built a strong following, growing their store both online and off, into a place for people to come together around the love of books and culture.

When the pandemic hit in March, the Youngs did some creative thinking to continue to serve the community, developing book bundles for kids stuck at home, “Blind Date with a Black Book” mystery boxes and virtual author events. When the protests that followed the killing of George Floyd resulted in a surge of demand for books about racism as well as a desire to support Black-owned businesses, the Youngs faced a new challenge – serving a new kind of customer and meeting overwhelming demand, while at the same time meeting the needs of the customer that’s been with them for 13 years.

The key is staying true to their vision. “We can get caught up in these things that come and go. But I think, if we stay grounded in why we started that business, why that passion or that vision really spurred us to put all this energy and time out there, I think that's where we'll stay productive and successful,” Ramunda Young says.

Listen to the full episode to learn about how the digital foundation and community that MahoganyBooks has fostered over the years set it up for success now and in the future.

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