Oprah Daily recommends Richmond bookstore

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Oprah Daily recommends Richmond bookstore
Tamara Shiloh of The Multicultural Bookstore. (All photos by Kathy Chouteau)

By Mike Kinney

Tamara Shiloh already experienced the Oprah Effect about four years ago, after her Richmond bookstore was featured in an O, the Oprah Magazine article promoting Black-owned bookstores.

Looks like it’s about to happen again.

Last month, The Multicultural Bookstore, which Shiloh co-founded and owns, was mentioned in Oprah Daily, this time in a segment titled “133 Black-Owned Bookstores in America That Amplify the Best in Literature.”

When Oprah’s publication first featured Shiloh’s bookstore at the onset of the COVID pandemic, good things happened. At the time, the San Francisco 49ers were looking for stores to partner with locally. After seeing the bookstore in Oprah’s publication, they purchased books from Shiloh’s store to give to second-graders in San Francisco. The Emerson Collective also partnered with the bookstore as a result of the article.

“I’ve been doing business with them for about four years now, it’s been a great relationship,” Shiloh said. “So as a result of that article, people saw me and found me.”

Of course, the article is not the only reason The Multicultural Bookstore gets attention. That it continues to serve customers in an online-dominated world is a testament to Shiloh’s stewardship. And the secret to her success is an authentic passion to provide her customers with books with which they can connect.

“We want children who walk into this bookstore to see themselves in the books, especially African Americans, who historically haven’t seen themselves on the cover of books,” Shiloh said.

It’s not that these books haven’t existed.

“Books about black children as protagonists, and by black authors, they’ve been around a long time,” the bookstore owner said. “It’s just in the last 10 years or so we’re getting more visibility, which we should have had all along.”

The Multicultural Bookstore’s purpose has been to prominently display those books. Shiloh notes that’s what makes it unique from traditional bookstores.

Shiloh was among three co-founders of the bookstore. It first opened as a pop-up store at the invitation of the previous owner of the Hilltop Mall. The store was then asked to stay at the mall. It remained there for two years.

Now, the store finds its home at the Bay Area Girls Club at 260 Broadway in Richmond.

It continues to offer a wide variety of multicultural books, “We have Asian, South Asian, Native American, African American, Hispanic, Latinx, LGBTQ, biography, social justice, graphic novels, chapter books, music, dance, art. We pretty much have books for just about everyone.”

Often, books end up on the shelves from the recommendations of customers.

“They will come in and ask, do you have a certain book, and if they ask, I’ll get it,” she said. “They have really introduced me to some great titles.”

The Multicultural Bookstore also hosts storytime for children and events like author book signings.

“I want to start a section with local authors,” she said. “We have quite a few authors right here in Richmond.”

Getting recognition from a national magazine is certainly a good feeling. But it’s not the best part for Shiloh.

“I particularly enjoy seeing the smiles on customers’ faces as they walk in, especially the kids,” she said.

Shiloh is also confident that books in the print form are not going away any time soon.

“Yeah we have ebooks, audio books, but I think people still like having that book in their hand,” she said. “I think parents want to read from a book to their children…Books will be around for a lot longer than people think, because it’s a very special experience, it is personal to readers.”