James Fugate knows the importance of knowledge in the Black community. The Detroit native has been selling books in South Los Angeles neighborhoods for over 30 years. Inspired by a childhood love of reading, Fugate opened Eso Won Books with the help of his co-owner, Tom Hamilton, in 1990.
Over the years, the Leimert Park staple has grown from a small, weekend-only operation to one of the most popular stores in the area, hosting signings for President Barack Obama, Spike Lee, Misty Copeland and others over the years. In today’s digital age, Fugate says he found a way to stay successful by committing to his product and building a relationship with his costumers.
“As I got older, I found out the role Blacks had played in this country and in the world. I wanted to expose more people to that information,” Fugate explains. “You go into Barnes & Noble . . . and they may have popular books. They may have a lot of urban books, which are big books. History books? Very little.”
Watch our exclusive interview with Fugate about Eso Won Books (above), then check out our entire In Our Cities series here: ebony.com/inourcities.