July 1, 2019

Local DC bookstore gets one step closer to gov’t support; can other stores follow suit?


A win for bookstores everywhere! In last week’s Publishers Weekly, Ed Nawotka reported on a local DC bookstore whose proposed tax break with local government is gaining momentum. Sankofa Video and Books is hoping for a ten-year tax abatement, “a move that will potentially save the store approximately $415,000 and keep it from closing,” writes Nawotka. DC’s city council just unanimously voted to approve the measure.

According to Nawotka, the store’s 2018 tax bill topped $30,000, but Sankofa—an independent bookstore co-founded by Shirikiana Germina which specializes in African and African-American books—would most likely see even more tax hikes due to its prime location in an up-and-coming neighborhood. Opened in 1988 and serving the local community (and Howard University) since then, co-founder Germina saw no other way out but with local, governmental support.

Germina spoke with Rachel Kurzius for The DCist about the tax break, saying “We’ve been out here working hard for a long time and the sustenance has been the growth of people around us and ourselves, too. The government is a gatekeeper and they have a responsibility to look out for D.C. residents old and new.”

City council voted last Tuesday on the tax abatement, but Germina must follow certain requirements, as well. Nawotka writes, “The tax break demands that half of Sankofa’s employees live in D.C., and more than 30% of them living in Ward 1, the area surrounding the store.”

The news of Sankofa’s victory comes at an important time for one specific New York City bookstore, as well. As our senior editor Ryan Harrington discussed in an earlier post, co-owner of all four Book Culture locations in the city Chris Doeblin took to Facebook to urge readers and citizens alike to rally local government to their support: the stores are in need of financial support.

The vote on Sankofa still needs to head the mayor’s office for final approval, but if Amazon gets a tax break, why can’t the little guys?



Alex Primiani is the associate director of publicity at Melville House.