Although it’s been a rough year for Denver’s beloved local chain, Tattered Cover, things are beginning to look up.
After the pandemic caused several locations to close temporarily, a massive dent in sales followed. However, this week, owners Len Vlahos and Kristen Gilligan announced the sale of the store to Bended Page LLC in turn making Tattered Covered the largest Black-owned independent bookstore in America.
According to NPR, Bended Page LLC is a group of investors led by businessmen Kwame Spearman and David Back.
As Denver natives, the new owners have a long history with Tattered Cover. In an interview with the Denver Post, Back reveals that his first job was as a cashier at the company’s Cherry Creek, Colorado location.
When the pandemic hit, Back approached Vlahos and Gilligan then pitched the idea to Spearman.
“The notion of buying a bookstore in the middle of [a] pandemic was just about the craziest thing I had ever heard,” said Spearman.
After Back’s persistence, Spearman finally agreed. Now, Spearman assumes the role of CEO at Tattered Cover while Back holds the Chairman of the Board position.
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“The impact of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic made it clear that Tattered Cover was going to need not only new management but an infusion of capital,” said the former owners, Vlahos and Gilligan, in a letter posted to the store’s website. “The difficult sales environment has not kept pace with the business’s mounting debt.”
Aside from pandemic struggles, Tattered Cover also faced backlash after now-former owners Vlahos and Gilligan issued a statement on the Black Lives Matter movement citing that the store would not take a public stance due to a long history of silence on national and local issues. After canceled events, severed business relationships, and public outcry, the company reversed course and issued an apology just a few days later.
“Tattered Cover is now the largest Black-owned bookstore in the U.S.,” said Spearman. “It’s kind of a cool twist of events and something that we obviously hope to add to the dialogue that BLM and some of the other movements have begun.”
The company will be guided by an advisory board which includes outgoing Macmillan CEO, John Sargent, and Oren Teicher, former CEO of the American Booksellers Association.