Semicolon—a vibrant new bookstore, community space, and gallery for Chicago’s street art scene—opened its doors on Tuesday with a party and mural unveiling. The store is “just one of a handful of woman-owned bookstores in Chicago and currently its only bookstore owned by a black woman.”
An author and editor with a PhD in literary theory, owner DL Mullen originally planned to open a Soho House-esque literary arena called Athenaeum Librarium, which would be a mixture of library, co-working space, and membership-only club. However, after the ambitious project was repeatedly plagued by construction woes, Mullen decided to spin the concept into a bookstore, rechristening it Semicolon.
“It represents the point in a sentence where it could stop, but the author decides to proceed,” Mullen explained to Chicago Magazine. “It means everything to me. To be able to create something that I love, as a black woman, that other black women and people can love just as much is a huge deal,” she says. “You don’t get into bookselling looking for money; it’s really hard to build up your career to actually open a bookstore. I feel grateful that I’ve been able to do that.”
Congratulations to Mullen, and to all of Chicago’s literary and artistic denizens!
Correction: A previous version of this post stated incorrectly that Semicolon is the first black woman-owned bookstore in Chicago. Desiree Sanders’ Afrocentric Bookstore, which operated for almost twenty years and closed in 2008, was in fact the city’s first, and Mrs. Toneal M. Jackson’s APS Books & More Bookstore was in business in Chicago from 2015 to June 2019.