Bookstore Solidarity Project: An Interview with David & Dara Landry of CLASS Bookstore in Houston, Texas

Welcome to the next installment of the Bookstore Solidarity Project! Every month, we’ll be highlighting indie bookstore owners and booksellers across the country (and beyond!)

For June, we got to chat with David and Dara, the co-owners of CLASS Bookstore in Houston. CLASS started out as an online bookstore in 2020, and they are all about all about consistency, credibility, collaboration, and creativity. Check out our interview with the owners below!

Your name and pronouns?
David (he/him) & Dara (she/her) Landry

Tell us a little bit about the store and your community.
CLASS Bookstore is a Black-owned, family operated, indie bookstore based in Houston, TX. We are based in the Third Ward community and we like the following things about where we are: our proximity to two universities (Texas Southern University and University of Houston) and a high school (Jack Yates High School, the alma mater of George Floyd); the positive relationships that we have built with the members of the community; something good is always going on in Third Ward (Jazz Concerts at Emancipation Park; TSU Homecoming; UH Frontier Fiesta; Third Ward Block Party). We have a pet dog named Catcher, named after J.D. Salinger’s book, Catcher in the Rye.

What got you into bookselling?
The thing that got us into indie bookselling was our desire to actively resist the so-called “decline” of the Black-owned bookstore in America. Books have always been important to us from a young age and we felt that it was a business that we felt passionate about doing. Once we had talked to a few Black-owned bookstores that had been around for awhile and gain some perspective, we decided to make it happen.

How did you choose your store’s name?
The reasons why we named our store CLASS Bookstore are the following: it’s easy to write and remember; the word “CLASS” elicits the idea of literacy, social strata, and how one should view reading all at once. We capitalize the word CLASS so that it will stand out, very much like the late rapper MF DOOM capitalized his name.

What’s something about your store that you think will surprise people?
We are the bookstore that loves streetwear! We consider ourselves part of the sneaker and streetwear community and we love to dress fly and step out for events. We also incorporate elements from the streetwear and sneaker community in everything that we do, from the presentation of our physical space, to the merch that we release in store.

What are some of you favorite ways your community supports your store?
Every first Sunday of the month, we have a growing contingent of people who love poetry and spoken word who come to the store and share their work with each other and have been doing so every month for the past year or so. It is a safe space for people of all types to come to the shop and either spectate or participate. This is totally community organized and CLASS Bookstore just provides the physical space to do the event. Another way that our community comes through and supports us is our monthly event on first Saturdays called “Ladies First Saturdays”, where from 12p – 3p CST, women can come to CLASS Bookstore and have tea, talk, or just be. We have music playing according to a pre-selected theme and we sometimes even have speakers come through and talk on a variety of topics, such as mental health, metaphysics, and naturopathy.

What are two books you can’t wait for people to read, or your current favorite handsells?
Sacred Woman by Queen Afua; Everyone Calls Themselves an Ally Until it Is Time to Do Some Real Ally Shit by Xhopakelxhit

How can customers who aren’t local shop your shelves and support you?
People can shop with us on our website, and if they can’t find what they are looking for on our website, they can shop with us through our Bookshop affiliate link.

Anything else you’d like to share?
Thank you so much, Microcosm! We can’t wait to visit you all in person!

Be sure to follow CLASS Bookstore on their Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Tiktok, and check back in a few weeks for their podcast episode!

You can read our other Bookstore Solidarity Project posts here!
And click here to get a copy of How to Protect Bookstores and Why.