West Philadelphia bookshop gets national spotlight in NBA Finals

TaRhonda Thomas Image
Saturday, July 31, 2021
EMBED <>More Videos

As exciting as Tuesday's NBA Finals game is guaranteed to be, some people will be watching to see a big moment for a neighborhood bookstore in West Philadelphia.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- As exciting as Tuesday's NBA Finals game is guaranteed to be, some people won't be watching to see who wins.

They'll be watching to see a big moment for a neighborhood bookstore in West Philadelphia. It's a moment that Yvonne Blake's father, Dawud Hakim, never could have imagined when he opened Hakim's Bookstore and Gift Shop on South 52nd Street in 1959.

"We are the first and oldest African-American bookstore in Philadelphia and on the East Coast," said Blake, adding that her father opened the business at a time when interest in African-American studies and topics wasn't as high as it is in 2021.

"He decided he wanted to sell books to educate everyone about our history," said Blake.

Now, the entire country will know the name: "Hakim's Bookstore and Gift Shop."

LINK: Hakim's Bookstore and Gift Shop

The small shop is now front-and-center, as Hakim's Bookstore and Gifts is featured in an ad during the NBA Final with millions of people watching.

It's part of ESPN's Champion Black Businesses initiative. The program is highlighting four small Black-owned businesses across the country in advertisements during the NBA Finals. Hakim's Bookstore and Gift Shop is the only business selected from Philadelphia.

"I love the fact that reading and volunteering has landed me somewhere that was a dream for me. On the NBA, part of the NBA finals," said Chris Arnold, volunteer community engagement specialist for Hakim's Bookstore and Gift Shop.

RELATED: Historic swim club takes on mission of teaching children

He adds that neither he nor Blake knows how the program found out about the bookstore.

Blake was surprised to get a phone call and email saying that they were finalists for consideration and the eventual phone call that they had been selected for the program.

The selection also included an opportunity to meet one-on-one virtually with Shark Tank star Daymond John. The mogul gave Blake and Arnold advice on how to continue to grow their business.

"The easiest thing to sell in the world is the truth, and I think you have an authentic position," said John when responding to a question from Blake.

RELATED: West Philly woman keeps father's legacy alive at bookstore specializing in African American history

Staying open for 62 years has been a struggle at times.

"There were days when we had no customers," recalled Blake.

But, as the pandemic shut the doors of the store, an unusual opportunity presented itself.

The nation was undergoing a racial awakening which caused more people to seek out books on the African-American experience.

"That woke a lot of people up," said Blake. "We suddenly started getting a lot of web orders."

As Hakim's Bookstore and Gift Shop moves its slogan, 'Knowledge is Power," into the digital age, they're grateful for the opportunity to be seen on a national stage.

"I never in my wildest dreams imagined that we would be on national TV, and it's a great feeling," said Blake.