When 28-year-old Vanessa Nicolle launched her online bookstore, Femme Fire Books, she wanted to create a community of underrepresented female readers in the literary world.
Two years later, Nicolle, of Jacksonville, will soon see the opening of her first brick and mortar store.
Nicolle learned in April that Cultivate Jax, a home goods store that sold books through Femme Fire’s “blind date with a book” program, had space to rent.
“The opportunity presented itself, and out of 20 applicants, they decided to go into an independent bookstore,” she said.
Since signing the lease in May, Nicolle has been preparing the storefront to become the first home of her previously online-only bookstore. Femme Fire Brooks’ mission is to celebrate diversity and encourage reading for all, she said, and to raise the voices of women and people of color.
“I started Femme Fire Books right before the pandemic started,” she said. “I was just doing it for fun because I love reading and I love sharing my books. I thought, ‘Let me try sending books, and I’ll see where that leads.’
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Even when she was deployed in the Navy, Nicolle said she couldn’t stop thinking about the business, and when she left active duty in September, she began to participate in more events. ephemeral with his books. She called the community’s response “overwhelmingly positive”.
“People were like, ‘This bookstore is so cool,’ and ‘I feel so seen,'” she said. “I think the most fun and fulfilling thing I feel is when I can interact with my customers who come to my pop-ups and see so excited [about] a bookstore like mine in Jacksonville.
Nicolle said her customers appreciate her focus on women authors and that the store is Asian American-owned and that the community support — both online and in Jacksonville — has been outstanding.
“My husband has also been incredibly supportive of me pursuing this business,” she said. “He was the one who helped me behind the scenes loading up my little Kia Soul full of books to take me to a pop-up in Jax Beach or Murray Hill in Vagabond [Flea].”
While Nicolle put her pop-up events on hiatus at the physical store launch, she said it’s important to include women and people of color in a pop-up market that will be featured during the National Day celebrations. Femme Fire opens from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on July 16 at 2766 Park St.
Caked by the Ocean, Besos Boutique, Little Red Cottage Cookies, Tipsy Creative Co. and Crochet With Passion will be among the featured vendors.
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Tipsy Creative Co. owner Lydia Griffin is someone Nicolle relied on throughout the process of starting her business.
“She’s also someone I served in the Navy with and a small business owner who is incredibly supportive of my business, and we’ve helped each other along the way,” Nicolle said. “A lot of these vendors have popped up with me in the past. It’s great to celebrate with other small businesses.
Griffin, 30, said she had been a listening ear for Nicolle during the process of starting her bookstore.
“Once she got started, nothing stopped her and her business,” Griffin said. “Vanessa is one of the most genuine people I’ve met. She always shows up for others, and I’m very excited to see how others show up for her on Saturday.
“I can’t really explain how exciting it is to see someone walk into my store or my tent and see someone see a book cover with a Filipino author and say, ‘That’s so cool. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Nicolle said. “I hope that one day diversity in literature will be the norm and not the exception.”
Griffin said seeing another small business grow like Nicolle’s “makes [her] heart literally explodes with happiness.
“It’s so difficult for small businesses, especially with inflation right now and rising shipping costs, packaging costs and just about everything,” she said. “Not only that, but a lot of us small businesses have to hustle after our 9-5. It’s so refreshing and rewarding to see a small business, and especially a friend, succeed and take such a crucial step in growing their business. »
The business will continue to be a one-woman show for now, but Nicolle said she hopes to hire part-time employees in the near future.