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Choosing The Reader’s Choice

by Yolanda D. White / photo by V. Bushell Perhaps if there were as many neighborhood bookstores as there are neighborhood liquor stores, communities as a whole would be more literate. Then again, there is a slight possibility that people would just walk a little farther to get drunk. Not, however, if they had bookstores abundant with endless reading options like The Reader’s Choice, 1950 N. Martin Luther King Dr. A few years after Carla Allison opened the first location on North 20th Street in 1989, she moved the business to its current locale. Her mission was, and still is, to offer readers the best in literature from authors who are said to be in the “minority.” Prominent in her corner bookstore are materials from local authors as well, one noteworthy mention being Fatherlands by Emily Ballou. Aside from the fact that she shows concern and compassion for the customers’ needs and desires, Allison – a psychology and philosophy instructor at MATC – uses her own many life experiences to shape her business. These experiences provide her with the awareness to view literacy and the business of reading through a wider lens. She has an idea why, when mammoth chain bookstores are more commercially visible, her store remains a unique community staple. Maybe it is the embodiment of the expression, “corporate citizen.” To her, the “corporate citizenship” she embraces begins with the bookstore’s interaction with the surrounding community on a regular basis. Unlike her larger competitors, Allison feels she doesn’t need to host large events, grandstanding and garnering attention on a yearly basis, because she supports the community and its individuals on a weekly basis. Storytelling, book signings, readings and discussions are commonplace there. “That is what distinguishes us from regular businesses,” she commented. One event of Allison’s, “Choices: Milwaukee’s Black Festival of Books,” is a good example. For four years running, she has made a way for enthusiasts to meet authors, participate in workshops, purchase books and other items, and even obtain an autographed copy of a featured author’s book. She explained, “Because of my background, I am acutely aware of the impact of reading and the presence of marketing tools or calendar events that celebrate reading. I’d like to do more of that in the future.” Among the novels, it is also possible to find supporting gifts and novelty items like bags, bookmarks, greeting cards, posters and an occasional figurine at The Reader’s Choice. It is stuffed full, both the front and back of the store, with books to suit every possible taste. Her love for literture is evident from the volumes and variety of material she stocks. If her books don’t satisfy a potential customer, her vision and passionate philosophy of reading will steer even the most reluctant reader to something they’ll like. “Read like your life depends on it, because it does,” Allison advised. “Think like your life depends on it, because it does too. And share information, because you can accomplish much more when you don’t go at it alone.” The Reader’s Choice 1950 N. MLK Dr. Open M-F 10 am – 7 pm Sat. 10 am – 6 pm
by Yolanda D. White / photo by V. Bushell