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Bring a Grand Gesture Books storefront to Portland, Oregon!

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Hi there! My name is Katherine D. Morgan. I’m a writer and bookseller living in Portland, Oregon with my lovable and incredibly chatty cat, Ramona. I’m sure that if you’ve ever watched a video where the two of us were together, you have heard her screaming in the background.

I first fell in love with romance in high school, where I encountered the incredibly popular romance series, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. Back then, I wasn’t reading stories about Black teenage girls falling in love because those books simply weren’t available to me at the time. Over the years, I fell out of love with the genre because I didn’t believe that someone like me was worthy of a meet-cute or, better yet, a grand gesture (keep reading on for the full circle moment).

It wasn’t until 2019 that I happened to stumble upon a “Best Black Romances” list and came across Jasmine Guillory’s The Wedding Date. I checked out a used copy from Powell’s, came home, sat down, and read the book cover to cover in one sitting. I laughed, I happily sighed, I yelled when the two characters miscommunicated with one another. After that, I picked up The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang, and it was game over. I was officially hooked.

After getting the chance to run the romance section at Powell’s City of Books—a section that I have continued to grow, bringing all types of books and handselling them to the best of my ability—I thought to myself, “I wish that the Pacific Northwest had a romance bookstore.” Stores were popping up all over the country, and I wanted to visit the Ripped Bodice and Meet Cute in California so badly, but traveling by plane can be expensive. I noticed that when it came to the PNW, we kept getting skipped by bigger authors, and there wasn’t a designated place for authors and the romance community to come together and discuss their love of, well, love. I sat with that idea, and only after my friends Nikki and Melissa told me that I should open a romance bookstore did I go “Wait, maybe I can be the one to do this.” Thus, in November 2023, Grand Gesture Books LLC was born (see? There’s the “grand gesture” comment from above! It all makes sense now!).

While I can’t take full credit for the name (I have to give my boyfriend and Diane Keaton’s wonderful Book Club props; if you haven’t seen it, download it immediately and watch it on a plane), I can take credit for what I’ve done in the past 7 months: We’ve hosted several successful events and have worked some great pop-ups with some more on the way. We have been interviewed by wonderful outlets, and even appeared on the cover for the Valentine’s Day issue of the Willamette Week “24 Reasons to Love Portland”. I have created and run three successful book clubs within the store. I created merch for it, and while, of course, it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows, hearing that my presence has made someone feel less alone, especially in a genre that is still predominantly cisgendered, white, and able-bodied has made it all worth it. I am grateful for all that I’ve done but I want to go even further.

For the past 7 months, Grand Gesture has been an online-only store, and I want to change that. I want to bring people (authors, readers, and people that are new to the genre) together in a physical space. I’ve been working with my broker for almost the entire time that this store has been around, and we found a lovely space. I hate asking for help when the world is the way that it is, but I want this space and I would never forgive myself if I didn’t at least try to go for what I want. So that’s why I’m hoping that you’ll support me in this endeavor.

Romance has become my life, and even if it isn’t yours, I hope that you’ll consider supporting my dream anyway because you believe that no matter who you are, there’s a great love out there waiting for you. I do want to highlight that yes, Grand Gesture will focus on romance and happily-ever-afters, but I will also highlight platonic and self-love too. My friends are some of the greatest people that I know and they have loved me in all stages of my life. Self-love is a little harder, but I am growing as a person and I am proud of that. As a mentally ill Black woman in Portland, I am proud of the work that I’ve accomplished and even more excited about my future. People say that Portland is dead or dying, and I want to say that the city isn’t even close to doing that. We’re coming back better than ever, and I want my store to be a factor in that.

I have so many big and beautiful plans for this store. I have requested that the landlord make it ADA accessible because I can’t tell someone that they deserve a HEA if they can’t make it safely in and out of the building. I want to host small community events, author events, and the like. I want a space to host my book clubs and I want a cozy and romantic place for all to feel welcome. We don’t discriminate here at Grand Gesture Books.

Now, the biggest question: why $100K?

I know, I know, it’s a lot of money but here’s the breakdown for it (for the square footage, I am using the numbers of the place that I visited and put a letter of intent on):

-Your girl is going to need some help with securing inventory for the store because as we know, books aren’t cheap! $50 per square foot of selling space x 1439sq (1200 would be the front room, I believe, maybe a little less) would equal $60,000 to $71,950 for those costs.
-POS, camera, alarms, signage, a sound system, publicity and promotion, utility costs, and professional fees like permits and licenses would equal around $15,000.
-Merch items, such as t-shirts, hats, candles, all of the sideline stuff that could ever dream of would equal around $5000.
-The space is 1,439 sq ft. plus the NNN (the rent is $1,678 and the NNN would be $700, so $2,378). For the security deposit and a first month’s rent, it would be $4,858. I’d love to add one more month on rent so it equals $7236. My goal is to open in September 2024.
-For furniture, shelving, lighting, and rugs, I’m setting aside $18,000.

All that adds up to $105,236, which is very much a stretch goal, but I’m hoping to get close to $100K. If I somehow reach/pass that goal, I will gleefully scream and be so excited. Anything that you’re willing to donate would mean the world to me. Truly. I hope that you’ll consider supporting one of the very few Black woman-owned businesses in Portland and one of only three Black-owned romance businesses in this country. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out!

With much love,

Katherine and Ramona
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Organizer

Katherine Morgan
Organizer
Portland, OR

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