INGLEWOOD, Calif. — On a recent weekday afternoon, 28-year-old Asha Grant was browsing the paint selection at Home Depot. She pulled out her phone to look at a Pinterest board, “I love these warm feminine colors,” she said, looking through images she had bookmarked.
Grant ended up picking a burnt orange and blue color. The paint was for her new office.
Grant is the founder of a new independent bookstore in Inglewood focused on literature written by and for Black women, girls and non-binary people. She’s in the finishing stages of setting the store up, and plans to open this July.
Grant grew up in Inglewood, reading wherever and whenever she could. She went on to study English at Spelman, the historically Black women’s college in Atlanta where she was introduced to the work of the author and activist, Toni Cade Bambara.
The author’s novel, "The Salt Eaters," left a lasting impression on Grant. So, she decided to name her new shop The Salt Eaters, in honor of her favorite novel by Cade Bambara.
Opening a bookstore has been a long-term goal of Grants. Growing up, she loved visiting bookshops, browsing the shelves and looking for stories that spoke to her. But book hunting wasn’t always a positive experience.
“I have memories of going to Barnes and Noble and being followed in the store by one of the store clerks that was there," Grant said. "Growing up I was a well-mannered kid. I didn’t understand why, in this place that had so many things that I loved, that I wasn’t seen as a person who could be interested in buying these books.”
She also recalls seeing books written by Black authors during Black history month, but not throughout the rest of the year.
Instead, Grant said The Salt Eaters will be a place devoted to the stories of Black authors, and an environment that’s welcoming, safe and fun.
“I want it to feel really warm, and cozy," Grant said. "I want Black women, girls and non-binary people to feel that this is a place where they can sit down, feel welcomed and loved and see themselves.”
The Salt Eaters is on East Queen Street in downtown Inglewood and Grant has spent the past year gutting and renovating the building that was previously a hair salon. She’s reaching the finish line but getting to this point wasn’t easy.
Grant had tried to get the store off the ground several times, but couldn’t drum up enough cash.
“In 2019 I was doing some number-crunching and light research, talking to people, but when I found this space I knew this was the right place,” she said. “I contacted the realtor and said, ‘I’m ready to do this,’ and he said, ‘where’s your money?’”
At the time, though, she didn’t have the funds.
The bookstore took a back seat while Grant worked on other projects. She’s a social media consultant, educator and runs the LA division of The Free Black Women’s library, a mobile library and book swap. But last summer everything changed after George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Black Lives Matter protests erupted across the country and the world.
Grant decided her dream needed to become a reality.
“Last year definitely lit a fire underneath me," Grant said. "It also made me realize: who am I not to do something like this? Who better to do it?”
So, she started a GoFundMe for The Salt Eaters asking for $65,000. Within a week she had surpassed her goal and was able to secure the location on East Queen St. Now, she’s working on the finishing touches.
After picking up her paint at Home Depot, Grant returned to the store where a few people were waiting. She had put out a call on Instagram asking if anyone wanted to volunteer their time to help with some final projects like putting the bookshelves together and painting.
Emma Broussard-Wilson, an LA event planner, had been following The Salt Eaters on Instagram and signed up immediately. She said she can’t wait to visit The Salt Eaters as a customer.
“This store means so much to me, as a Black woman," Broussard-Wilson said. "I know I can find stuff here that mainstream bookstores won’t carry or they won’t go into as much detail. I’m just really excited to have a space where you feel comfortable, because you know the people here see you."
As she prepares for the opening, Grant is looking forward to sharing her favorite books with the community.
“This is a bookstore I want to go to,” she said. “Black women’s books have raised me. People like Toni Morrison, Alice Walker — these are people who I feel are my grandmothers. I’ve learned so much about myself through these writers … that’s something I want to share.”