What do you get when you combine a sneakerhead musician with a book-loving scholarship hound? The answer: David Landry, co-owner of Class Bookstore, University of Houston-Downtown student financial aid counselor, acoustic guitarist and creative consultant, among other things.
The Defender caught up with this multiple hat-wearing brother to get a handle on his diverse dealings, the business he runs with wife Dara, and the experiences that opened him to his present path.
DEFENDER: How do you define yourself?
DAVID LANDRY: I would consider myself as a multi-disciplinary collaborator and jack of all trades. When I work with people, I try to partner with people who possess certain skills that I don’t have because I want to see cool people do cool things.
DEFENDER: How did your musical collaborations begin?
LANDRY: When I began on my creative journey in 2007, I was partnering with my longtime friend Tominique Roots who at the time was in a music group. At the time, he was rapping and I was playing acoustic guitar. I told him I wanted to do a rap project. So, we partnered. At first it was supposed to be a one-off thing where we do the project and then go our separate ways. But the reaction we got sort of spurred us on. And 10-plus years later, we’re still doing our thing. Still doing music as the group Dirty & Nasty (www.DirtyKnowsNasty.com). We’re on Spotify.
DEFENDER: Regarding your background in the arts, was there a person or experience in your growing up that opened that door to you?
LANDRY: I grew up in church. My grandfather was a Baptist minister. We all went to Mount Triumph Missionary Baptist Church over our Liberty Road. Small congregation, mostly family. For a lot of us, [church] was the first performance. Not to mention that my aunts and uncles growing up all were musically inclined. One of my uncles who passed away last year, he was the guy that inspired me to do that DJ set that I did over at Market Bar a couple of years ago. And he was not only a DJ, but he was also very mechanically inclined. Like if you wanted something, he would make it, just build it with his hands. He was a certified brick mason. Then my uncles who are alive, one of which is a very talented drummer. Another is a very beautiful singer. Then my other two uncles, they just sort of hung around. They would come to the shows and they would support. We were all very musically inclined. My maternal grandmother was also a singer. She passed it down to my mom and my mom passed it down to me. So that’s where the performance aspect of it and the arts come out. As far as theater was concerned, nobody was really theatrically inclined. That was sort of left field.
DEFENDER: How does your inner sneakerhead express itself?
LANDRY: I have a platform on Instagram (IG) called Fit Fridays I started during the inception of the pandemic lockdown in Houston. I hop on IG, talk about what I’m wearing, a hat, t-shirt or a jacket, if it’s cold, some slacks or pants, jeans, and then whatever shoes I’m wearing. Because that’s really what people want to see, the sneakers. My wife and I are very fortunate to have a modest collection. So, we show our shoes off every Friday; if we’re going out, the shoes we’ll be wearing with the outfit. If I have a guest, they give their five favorite sneakers from their collection.
DEFENDER: What inspired Fit Fridays?
LANDRY: During the pandemic lockdown, I wanted a way to reach out to my friends and associates, because I knew many of them live by themselves. I’m married. So, I always have somebody to talk to, even when she probably doesn’t want to hear me talk. Many of my friends and associates don’t have that. They live alone; in a different state or different country separated from family, and it’s hard for them. So, I said, “Hey, I’m off on Fridays. What better way for me to hop on IG for one hour and just reach people where they’re at.” May 25 will be the first-year anniversary of Fit Fridays.
DEFENDER: Tell us about Class Bookstore.
LANDRY: First things first. I always wanted to have my own shop. My mom was an entrepreneur. She was a hairstylist for all of my life. My father was an entrepreneur; 40-plus years in the tax industry. And my aunts and uncles, for the most part, we’re all either entrepreneurs outright or they had some kind of side job that they use to supplement their income. I always wanted to start a shop, streetwear with sneakers, t-shirts, jeans. My wife was like, “I always wanted to do a bookstore.” So, we sort of had a meeting of the minds. Well, I read an article and then we took the trip. The article I read was in 2015 published, and it said that there were only 39 Black-owned bookstores in the United States. And it shook me to my foundations when I read that. Because I remember growing up, one of my pivotal experiences here in Houston when I was a part of the Upward Bound program, was going to the Shrine of Black Madonna and seeing a Black-owned bookstore, fully functioning with books on every array of topics. I get to 2015, I read that statistic, my wife and I, we took a trip. Now, every trip we take, we do three things. We find where the Black people are. We go eat Jamaican food and we find a Black-owned bookstore. Those are the three things always on our list, every trip that we take outside of our city. We took a trip to California and met some guys. Eso Won Bookstore (Los Angeles). Shout out to those brothers. They just were on interviewed with Barack Obama for the Indie Bookstore Day. Just speaking with them and they were so encouraging and so kind, and they gave us a lot of information. And we took that information and ran with it. That was in 2015. In 2020 my wife met with some people over at the EEDC. Shout out to the Project Row Houses. They gave her some information to go talk to the EEDC for the small business courses, the 10-week courses. I took those course for 10 weeks straight. It was supposed to be in-person, but the first day, that’s when the lockdown was announced for our city. So, the rest of the classes were done all on Zoom. I took notes, copious notes. I studied with my cohort. And on that 10th week, I walked out with my congratulatory certification from the City of Houston on completing those courses. And we haven’t looked back since. I went and got my LLC, opened up my business account and November 28th of 2020, we opened the doors for business. And we’ve been doing very well.
DEFENDER: How are you making your mark on the culture?
LANDRY: Author Neely Fuller Jr. said we should strive to create justice in every area of activity. Justice is defined as two things: making sure no one is being mistreated and guaranteeing that the people who need the most help receive the most help. In an economic sense, we feel Class Bookstore is doing our level best to create justice by providing a platform for local and regional authors to sell their books. But more importantly, giving the opportunity for those who need the most constructive help to receive it. Since we don’t have a brick and mortar right now, we do pop-ups all over the city. Those pop-ups give people an opportunity to visit with us, talk to us about the books, and if they want to patronize, great.
Instagram: @Classbookstore and @dirtyknowsnasty