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Two Inland Businesses Share Their Story On Small Business Saturday

Jonathan Linden
91.9 KVCR
Interior of the Claremont Forum Bookstore in Claremont, Ca.

Corona's Shades of Afrika and the Claremont Forum Bookstore discuss their stores and their pandemic recovery on Small Business Saturday.

Shades of Afrika specializes in cultural products from the African diaspora. Co-Owner Vonya Quarles said that finding books for her children was a leading factor in the store's creation. "There were no places where they could go to and read about their stories from a different perspective. So we took a trip to Jamaica, and it was there that we decided that we wanted to open a store. We bought like maybe $200 worth of items, and we started ordering Black Art and books," said Quarles.

The store also offers African black soap, body oils, clothing, and more. Quarles says Shades of Afrika has made a slight recovery since Covid-19, but that competing with online vendors has been a challenge.

She said their loyal customers are what keeps them going and because they specialize in what they do. Quarles added, "So while Amazon might carry black seed oil, it might not be the quality of black seed oil, and you don't know the vendors that you're buying from, so some people will still elect to shop with us."

The Claremont Forum Bookstore is a non-profit that sells used books that help support their Prison Library Project. Manager Ivan Mendez says that not holding community events at the start of Covid was difficult for the store. Mendez said, "You know we try to be a fun, inviting, welcoming bookstore. We have events here, we have artists, we have exhibitions."

The Prison Library Project helps provide free reading materials for incarcerated individuals across the country. Mendez says the most common items they send are dictionaries and thesauruses. "A lot of inmates, you know, unfortunately, tend to be illiterate, you know, since some of them of them ask for thesauruses and just want to educate their vocabulary or enhance their vocabulary."

The project's website says its goal is to promote literacy, personal responsibility, reflection, and growth.

Jonathan Linden is a reporter at 91.9 KVCR in San Bernardino, California. He joined KVCR in July 2021 and had previously interned for the station in the Spring of 2019. Outside of KVCR, Jonathan also interned for KALW in San Francisco, KFI in Burbank, and Radio HCJB in Quito, Ecuador.