David and Dara Landry are the proud owners of CLASS Bookstore, which initially started as an online place for Black book lovers but has now expanded to a brick-and-mortar store (“The Residency”) located at 3805 Sampson St., Houston, TX 77004, right across the street from Texas Southern University.
David, who was featured by the Defender in 2021 for his multi-dimensional impact on the culture as a musician, sneakerhead, book connoisseur and self-described “Blerd” (Black nerd), had entrepreneurship in his DNA as both parents owned their own businesses, as well as several of his aunts and uncles.
Dara, who met her future husband while he worked at a local Borders Bookstore, also wanted to one day own her own business. Thus, right off the bat, the couple shared that in common, as well as an extreme love for books.
“I always wanted to start a shop, streetwear with sneakers, t-shirts, jeans, but my wife was like, ‘I always wanted to do a bookstore,” said David. “So, we sort of had a meeting of the minds.”
But before officially founding their business, they took an all-important journey. Literally.
“I read an article and then we took the trip. The article I read was published in 2015, 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,” shared David.
That article inspired a tradition the couple have honored since.
“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,” he shared.
One of those trips led them to the Eso Won Bookstore in Los Angeles, and a pivotal conversation with the owners who had just recently been interviewed with President Barack Obama who was promoting Indie Bookstore Day.
“They were so encouraging and so kind, and they gave us a lot of information. And we took that information and ran with it,” David added.
In 2020 Dara shared information with her husband about the small business courses offered by the Emancipation Economic Development Council (EEDC). Upon completion of the 10-week course, the couple wasted no time officially founding CLASS Bookstore.
“On that tenth 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 on Nov. 28 of 2020, we opened the doors for business. And we’ve been doing very well,” he shared.
However, an opportunity was presented to them to explore a physical location to augment their online presence.
“We started in 2020 as an online and mobile bookstore going out into the community and selling books wherever we could in the midst of a pandemic, and we were content to do that,” said Dara. “But a friend asked us if we wanted to do something a little bit more stable and had an opportunity for us to have a brick-and-mortar space.”
Dara said a physical building was always their goal for their business, but the opportunity came way sooner than either expected or planned. But they proceeded anyway, thankful for the chance, and for the space in the heart of Houston’s Third Ward. Depending on which window a customer looks out of, they can see either TSU or Jack Yates High School.
“It just happened a little faster than we thought. But when we were presented with this opportunity, we said ‘Sure.’ And we’ve been here since the first weekend in December,” Dara added.
When asked if the pair had words they lived by, they responded as follows:
“Proverbs 3:5-6: ‘Trust the Lord, do good, and in all your ways, acknowledge him and he will direct your path,’” shared David.
“I’m going to steal one of David’s. David’s father used to always say at the end of conversations: ‘Make it happen.’ So, in CLASS Bookstore, make it happen,” said Dara.
The Landrys took the Defender on a tour of their establishment. Here is the video footage from that tour:
Location: 3805 Sampson St., Houston, TX 77004