Aurora Anaya- Cerda, owner of La Casa Azul Bookstore, is an active member of the East Harlem community as a participant and supporter of cultural and educational events. A graduate of UCLA, Ms. Anaya-Cerda has a double Bachelor’s degree in History and Chicana/o Studies and a minor in Education. She was awarded the Juanita Centeno Leadership Award and the UCLA Women for Change Leadership Award, both for outstanding dedication and service to her community. Aurora recently received a scholarship from the New Start Fund, awarded to women entrepreneurs in New York City.
What compelled you to open your own bookstore?
The idea of opening a bookstore came while I was in college. I contemplated the idea briefly, but did other things first before making the decision to open La Casa Azul Bookstore. It wasn’t until I moved to East Harlem from East Los Angeles that I decided to make the dream a reality. I enrolled in a business course and immersed myself in the book industry world; soon I was so motivated and determined to open the bookstore that there was no going back. I chose East Harlem as the home for La Casa Azul Bookstore because there are not enough venues in the community that promote Latino literature.
When did the bookstore officially open it's online doors to the public?
La Casa Azul Bookstore opened as an online store in April of 2008. Customers nation wide can purchase books, DVDs and CDs via www.lacasaazulbookstore.com. Opening as a virtual bookstore has served as a stepping stone towards the opening of the bookstore as a brick and mortar. Since the launch of the website, I have partnered with a local venues to host author readings, book signings and the monthly Barrio Book Club.
What was the most difficult aspect of the process when you first started? the most rewarding?
As an entrepreneur there have been many challenges, but it’s important to learn from all mistakes and face each difficulty head on. An entrepreneur wears many hats and has to know about all aspects of their business ..marketing, accounting, industry trends, even real estate and lease negotiations!
There have also been many moments in this journey that have been incredibly rewarding… for example, meeting bookstore supporters who are introduced to new writers because of the my events, meeting great writers, and seeing a child open a book and be excited about reading. Receiving positive feedback and support from people who attend the events and buy the books I sell is also a great reward, it keeps me motivated and makes all my hard work worthwhile.
Your bookstore has been getting a lot of exposure lately. You've been featured in major newspapers and radio stations. Has this happened naturally or are you constantly trying to find news ways to promote your business?
I think the media coverage is a result of both my dedication to promoting Latino writers with the work that I do (book club, readings, newsletters), mixed with the need that there is to highlight and showcase Latino literature. Marketing and media attention are extremely important, and I am grateful for the articles and interviews that have featured La Casa Azul Bookstore.
What type of books are most popular with your readers?
Fiction is definitely the most popular genre, but it’s great to also see customers buying books featured in the Barrio Book Club that include poetry, memoirs and mystery titles. I write a monthly newsletter with book recommendations and author interviews, and my customers purchase those as well.
Tell us about the author events you often host and how people can learn about them.
There have been over 30 author events since April 2008, with book readings, launch parties, book signings, open mic events and children’s story time. There is also the monthly Barrio Book Club that meets on the 2nd Tuesday of the month, which is the reader’s opportunity to have an intimate conversation and book discussion with a local writer. Barrio Book Club has featured authors such as Mirta Ojito, Marta Moreno Vega, Daniel Serrano, Sergio Troncoso, Josefina Lopez and Junot Diaz.
What would you like to tell our readers?
Here is a list of ways to support La Casa Azul Bookstore:
• Shop online for your books and DVDs, www.lacasaazulbookstore.com
• Be a part of the Founding Familia, be a bookstore investor!
• Purchase books for your school library or classroom from La Casa Azul Bookstore
• Host a book reading at your school, organization or club.
• Invite La Casa Azul Bookstore to your school book fair or parent/teacher night
• Attend the Barrio Book Club, held on the 2nd Tuesday of the month at El Museo del Barrio
• Sign up for the store newsletter online
• Tell everyone you know about La Casa Azul Bookstore!
Causes Mayra Calvani Supports
World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA)
Almost Heaven Golden Retriever Rescue & Sanctuary