It's been a lifelong dream for Lucy Yu to open a bookstore. Last month Yu, a chemical engineer and supply chain manager by trade, realized that dream, opening Yu and Me Books on Mulberry Street in the heart of Chinatown.
"Finding this space and being a part of the community and just seeing how excited people are that I'm here has meant so much,” said Yu.
Yu opened the store, the business name a play on her own name and initials of her mother Yuehua Meng, as a response to the rise in Asian-American hate during the pandemic.
Yu hand picks each new and used title on the shelves.
"The goal is to showcase a wide range of immigrant stories, voices of color, writers of color, stories of color,” said Yu. “I think that lack of representation was something that really drove me to open up a space like this and have just so much inventory that showcases people that look like me and having experiences similar to mine.”
The shop, located in what was once a funeral supply store, is a labor of love for Yu, who still works full time as a supply chain manager each morning before opening and then after closing.
She hopes the store will be a collaborative space for the neighborhood where folks can share their stories, including in an inviting reading and meeting space that is so cozy it could also be a great place for a nap.
As for the challenges of opening a small business during a pandemic in a time when many choose to buy books online, Yu says her store has something that the online giants can’t offer.
"What you don't get from Amazon is the in-person interactions that you can find here, the warmness of the space, the way that we can kind of build a community within the four walls here, that you just can't order two days to arrive,” said Yu.
Yu spent her youth visiting Chinatown in Los Angeles where she grew up. She says she feels very much at home in Manhattan's historic Chinatown, and is honored to be part of the neighborhood.