December 15, 2021 | When Emily Autenrieth attended a Facebook Community Summit in February of 2019, she didn’t intend to leave with a business idea. But two encounters led her to a vision for a new business that would meet a need for an inclusive bookstore and cafe in Sacramento County. Now, after building an online and pop-up business, Emily’s vision has come full circle with the grand opening of A Seat at the Table Bookstore and Cafe in Elk Grove.
INSPIRATION LEADS TO A BUSINESS IDEA
While attending the summit as the administrator of a popular parenting Facebook group, Emily met the owners of EyeSeeMe, a multicultural children’s bookstore in Missouri, and Eden Torres, Houston-based photographer and founder of PridePortraits.Org. Shortly after, Torres, whose work largely focuses on advocating for a more inclusive world for LGBTQIA+ people, shared on social media that she would like to open an LGBT bookstore in the Houston area. Reflecting on the conversation about the impact that EyeSeeMe was having in their community, Emily connected with Eden’s sentiment.
“I thought, ‘We need an inclusive bookstore and cafe in Elk Grove’,” says Emily, who immediately began envisioning all that this inclusive space could offer. She pictured a bookstore featuring titles from diverse up and coming authors; a cafe offering fresh, local food to encourage connection; a playroom for children to safely socialize while parents browsed the bookstore; and a quiet room where neurodiverse individuals and nursing parents could find calm and privacy. “My concept was so clear, I realized that I would have to be the one to create it.”
PUTTING THE PLAN IN MOTION
Emily began her work in January of 2020, with pop-up bookstores at small businesses in Elk Grove like Savvy House Coffee Bar and Neighborhood Market. The community response was strong and positive. Ultimately, says Emily, that’s what has carried the project through the uncertainty of the covid-19 pandemic. “We’ve built a strong community who already believes we will succeed, and it’s given us a chance to get feedback from the community,” explains Emily, whose spouse Ryan has been a key partner while maintaining his full-time job as a school counselor.
The build out of the brick and mortar space took up much of 2021, with pandemic-related delays and supply chain issues necessitating adaptability. Fortunately, Emily began working with Women’s Business Center consultant, Natasha Palumbo, in November of 2020. Through regular counseling sessions, Natasha played a key role in helping Emily translate her mission into an actionable business plan. Overall, says Emily, the challenges faced leading up to the grand opening were navigable because she was unwavering in her mission to manifest an equitable and inclusive space in Elk Grove.
PREPARING FOR SUCCESS
Now, with the bookstore and cafe officially open, the work of uplifting the greater Sacramento community can really take off. “The biggest overarching success to me was that the community is clearly ready for our movement and mission,” says Emily, reflecting on the grand opening this past weekend. “I met so many people who were very moved by the representation on our shelves, and near tears because they’ve needed this in their life and community.”
Emily is confident that she has put together a dedicated and passionate team, and they are eager to work with local authors, and to open their space to community organizations to host various events. (If you are an author in the Sacramento area and would like to inquire about author events or getting your book carried, head to their FAQ For Authors page!). Even their cafe is community-focused, offering cupcakes from Kalani Kakes, a local Woman of Color-owned bakery, and a full espresso bar with Sacramento-based Temple Coffee.
With the successful opening, Emily is hopeful that more folks will catch on to all that they have to offer–a full menu, online and in-person sales, gift cards–and see A Seat at the Table as a resource for books, coffee, snacks, play dates, and education.
“It was exhausting, but I’m good tired,” explains Emily with a chuckle. “It’s clear that people are ready to learn how to get everyone a seat at the table.”
A Seat at the Table Books is also featured in the California Capital 2021 Holiday Shopping Guide. Visit them online at bookshop.org/shop/aseatatthetablebooks and in person at 9257 Laguna Springs Dr, Suite 130 Elk Grove CA.