When Lucy Yu was 7 years previous, she instructed her mother she needed to retire and open a bookstore someday. She’d all the time cherished studying and, as the one youngster raised primarily by her single mom who immigrated from China, turned to books as a supply of consolation.
Now, at age 27, Yu resides that retirement dream as her full-time job. In December, she opened Yu and Me Books in Manhattan’s Chinatown, New York Metropolis’s first Asian American woman-owned bookstore that facilities works from authors of colour, immigrants and folks from marginalized communities — a spot Yu says she’s all the time needed to see however by no means discovered till she created it herself.
“This was a pipe dream,” Yu tells CNBC Make It. “I did not understand the area that I needed for myself was additionally needed by different folks. Which means a lot to me.”
Turning to books by way of grief and burnout
Yu is a chemical engineer by coaching and most just lately labored as a provide chain supervisor for a meals firm. However in January 2021, she hit a wall. She was working 80-hour weeks, coping with pandemic fatigue and was nonetheless grieving the lack of a great good friend who died the 12 months prior.
She determined to take three weeks of trip — her total PTO allotment for the 12 months — directly.
“As somebody who’s struggled with despair and anxiousness my complete life, making that call was very uncommon for me,” Yu says. “And all I did throughout that point was learn two books a day. I felt like that was all that was giving me the therapeutic and simply area that I wanted.”
She realized that from the time she was younger, “at any time when I’m in instances of intense stress or anxiousness, I all the time flip to books, as a result of they provide me such a way of consolation going into different locations and tales exterior of mine.”
One night time over wine, she fired up Google and started researching the way to open a bookstore and placing concepts right into a spreadsheet. “Abruptly it was 2 a.m. and I had put collectively this define” of a marketing strategy, she says. Within the following days and weeks, she chipped away at bringing it to life.
By Might, she launched a GoFundMe crowdfunding web page and raised practically $16,000. She took these funds, alongside along with her life financial savings, to lease out an area, cowl overhead prices and construct a listing.
She opened Yu and Me Books in December 2021, a tribute to her mom’s initials “YM.”
Yu continued to work her day job till February, when she give up and started working the bookstore full-time. “I simply took a shot and hoped it could prove for one of the best,” she says, “and I am actually excited that I am self-employed now. I by no means thought that may be an choice for me.”
Her mom initially questioned why she’d give up her regular 9-to-5 to open a bookstore within the age of Amazon. However after the shop formally opened, Yu says, her mom flew from California to New York, “and he or she stayed with me within the bookstore daily for 3 weeks, which was so wild, as a result of Asian mothers do not do this,” Yu jokes.
“I feel her notion of what the bookstore is and the way a lot folks had been enthusiastic about it modified along with her keep right here,” Yu provides.
A spot for neighborhood
Yu jokes that almost all of what she is aware of about working a enterprise has come from Google and YouTube. She additionally realized quite a bit by calling up different native bookstore homeowners, together with Noelle Santos of The Lit. Bar within the Bronx, and Emma Straub of Brooklyn’s Books are Magic.
Yu has additionally discovered a spot inside Manhattan’s Chinatown, first as a resident and now as a enterprise proprietor.
“The neighborhood in Chinatown is phenomenal,” Yu says. “I feel it is the probably the most I’ve felt at dwelling in a neighborhood dwelling within the metropolis. And each store proprietor reveals up for one another,” significantly because the pandemic has strained companies on account of monetary hardship and Covid-fueled xenophobia.
Yu understands the significance of working her bookstore in a time of rising anti-Asian violence and discrimination. Along with carrying round 1,700 handpicked titles that heart AAPI and immigrant tales, Yu and Me Books hosts writer talks, neighborhood readings and different occasions. The area has a espresso bar and studying nook, and Yu plans to host extra e-book membership occasions and broaden the shop’s attain past New York Metropolis.