ELK GROVE, Calif. — A Seat at the Table is celebrating its one-year anniversary in Elk Grove. It's a family-owned bookstore, café and community hub with the mission "to build community, uplift the oppressed, and smash the kyriarchy through the power of books and coffee."
Emily Autenrieth is the owner and founder. She says the bookstore has something for everyone, including a play area for children, conference and quiet room, and special community events to help promote diversity, inclusion and belonging.
"We're here to uplift everyone in our community," said Autenrieth. "We want to make sure everyone feels celebrated and represented. We're here to provide a safe space for everyone to learn about each other, too."
The bookstore kicked off its one-year anniversary celebration Friday. It featured pop-ups from local artists and craft makers, and a special performance by the Sheldon Breakers, a local high school's breakdancing troupe.
The celebrations continued over the weekend with additional vendors, a drag queen story time and singalong, and so much more.
"We wanted to celebrate A Seat at the Table Books' success with the small businesses, local leaders, and community members who made this possible," said Autenrieth. "We know we are fulfilling a huge need in the Elk Grove area for a community space where all are welcome, and we are thrilled to continue serving that mission with such wonderful support behind us."
A Seat at the Table opened in Nov. 2021. Before that, Autenrieth says, the bookstore began online and as a small pop-up business. That includes hosting pop-up events at the Savvy House Coffee Bar in Elk Grove.
Jamaar Anderson, who lives in Elk Grove, owned Savvy House Coffee Bar. The coffee bar opened in 2019, but was forced to close due to hardships related the COVID pandemic.
"We got one year of good business before the pandemic happened," said Anderson. "But then, we suffered and we had to close our doors on Nov. 23 this year."
According to a report released last year from the Committee on Small Business, the COVID pandemic disproportionately impacted small Black business owners.
In 2020, Black business ownership rates dropped 41% between February and April 2020, the largest rate of any racial group. The report also explains how "the pandemic exacerbated long-standing inequalities that make it harder for Black-owned businesses to endure the crisis and access recovery resources."
The report goes on to explain that "historically, Black entrepreneurs face systemic barriers to success, like lack of access to capital, fewer business mentorship relationships, and a general lack of business opportunity."
Anderson, who supported A Seat at the Table bookstore from the very beginning, says he visits the bookstore every day because of the inclusive environment. Now, he is teaming up with the bookstore, going from a loyal customer to the new café manager.
"It's the comfort that I feel when I get here," said Anderson. "I've seen different races, religions, families, and single people come through the door. It feels kind of like how my place felt. That's really the main thing that gets me, it hits home, right in the heart."
So, what's next for the bookstore? The owner says they're planning a special Black History Month event on Feb. 11. It will include vendors and a panel to discuss issues related to Black health.
The bookstore is also preparing "to host a variety of events beginning in 2023 that meet the needs of the Elk Grove community, such as a mental health series, communication workshops, Pride events, cultural celebrations, and many more."