All small businesses face challenges and, today, no business faces more challenges than independent bookstores. In the shadow of online retailers and e-readers, local bookstores must adapt, if they are to survive. It is heartening that a local, feminist bookstore, People Called Women, has set its sights on downtown Toledo.
People Called Women changed hands late last year to Linda Alvarado-Alce, an activist, and longtime customer. Alce plans to continue the store’s mission of fostering a safe space for women. She also has major plans to expand and make the store even more inclusive.
Alvarado-Alce is currently in the process of securing a new location for People Called Women; though nothing has been finalized, she is working with downtown developers. “I want to open [the store] back up, to all women; not just one type of woman, not just a specific way of thinking,” she said. “I want all women to be included, and I want men who are allies, wanting to fight for our equal rights, to be included as well.”
People Called Women originally opened in Cricket West (3151 W. Central Ave.) in 1993, when Alvarado-Alce was a student at the University of Toledo. At the recommendation of a women’s studies professor, she began frequenting the bookstore and she fell in love. Through the years, and after the store moved to its location in Sylvania (6060 Renaissance Pl.), she continued to patronize the business herself, as well as with her teenage daughter.
When she discovered that the former owner was considering retirement, she was concerned for the store’s future. “I thought, ‘What will happen to this space?’ It’s the only feminist bookstore in the state of Ohio,” she said.
Alvarado-Alce said that the timing for the transfer was perfect, as her former position, as the Executive Director of the Board of Community Relations, was beginning to weigh on her. Alvarado-Alce was intrigued with the opportunity to step into something new.
The new owner sees People Called Women as much more than a bookstore, also a safe space for education, information, and communion. Alvarado-Alce’s educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in social work, a master’s in social justice, and a PhD in education and leadership and taking over the bookstore has been a perfect and welcome change.
While the business name and mission will be retained, she plans to expand the store, both physically and in terms of programming. “We’re still going to support Take Back the Night, we’re still going to be a meeting space for people, we’re still going to be active in politics, we’re still going to advocate for women in leadership positions,” she said. “We’re just going to expand a bit.” Plans include a women’s business incubator program, regularly featured speakers, and a coworking space.
Alce welcomes any input on available downtown spaces, as well as individuals to assist with programs and festivals through the summer and fall.