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A Haven for Colorful Voices

Tara Torres of Book Haven Books

By A.G. Ortiz

To say that the Covid-19 Pandemic has changed the face of business is clearly an understatement. Whether we are discussing the domination of self checkout kiosks at big box stores or the demand for a shift to working out of office, the workplace looks different these days. In fact, many are choosing to abandon it all together and take the plunge into passion projects that have gathered dust on the shelf of impracticality.

As society shifts into this new phase of “post Covid” life, what does the world of entrepreneurship look like today? According to a 2021 survey conducting by Gusto, “2021 saw a continued shift in the face of new business ownership towards women and entrepreneurs of color.”

In fact, female business ownership has increased nearly 20 percent since 2019. With an 80 percent success rate for first time businesses It would seem women entrepreneurs have the acumen to continue this tidal wave of change across industries.

One such entrepreneur is Tara Torres, a first generation Cuban American that grew up primarily in North Bergen, New Jersey. Torres launched her online bookstore, Book Haven Books, in January 2022. The millennial Latina mother discussed a love of books that extended back to her childhood and a home full of them. She credits her own mother for not only providing access to a rich personal library, but also for “encouraging a voracious appetite” for reading.

After becoming a mother and planning her children’s collection, Torres realized a gap existed in the opportunities for representation in the titles she had gathered.

Upon further consideration she recalled, “I myself, did not read a book where I saw myself represented on the page, until I was in my 30’s.”

Understanding the power of representation and embracing a desire for her daughter to feel seen in the characters she was engaging with, Torres came up with a plan. Her mission, as she calls it, would be to “amplify diverse stories and authors from marginalized communities.” She credits the book The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan with giving her the final push, a light bulb moment where she decided “why not me?”

In a climate where 61 percent of all new business owners state they have tapped into personal savings to start their businesses Torres stands out among the pack. Creating a truly community based model, Torres began the preparations for Book Haven Books by sourcing gently used books written by BIPOC authors via community collection.

Though perhaps a slower way to gain inventory and make sales, the strategy has proved lucrative. Torres explains, “over the last year, we have been able to expand from offering mostly used adult fiction to offering new titles for readers of all ages.” She has also begun to expand to on site pop-up events where she is able to connect with members of the community that she loves to serve.
Torres gushes with pride over the vibrant and diverse communities of Hudson County that she has called home. The ability to bring her business back home via pop-up events in Union City this year is reflective of her desire to uplift the voices she grew up with.

She strives to be the type of “hometown hero” that supports her fellow Hudson County residents by bringing attention to others via her business. Recently, Torres partnered with North Bergen based mixed media artist Alejandra Vasquez.

Millennial entrepreneurs cite pursuing passion projects as the number two reason for starting their own business. Motivated often by principals over profit, they are a generation seeking to overhaul the very nature of how and why we do business. This is exemplified in Torres’ desire to expand her collection “so that everyone who visits [her] website feels seen.”

Some might see her selection of wares as niche, but they are reflective of a desire to change the narrative; to be unapologetically in support of who you are, where you came from, and to hold your love for that place like a beacon to the world.

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