ThirdSpace Action Lab opens a bookstore in Glenville

ThirdSpace Action Lab, a community hub and racial equity consulting firm, has opened a bookstore in its Glenville headquarters. ThirdSpace Reading Room is the only Black-owned bookstore in Cleveland.
The team behind ThirdSpace Reading Room. From left to right, Harry Atwell, community manager; Celia Williamson, interior designer; and Mordecai Cargill, co-founder and creative director of TSAL and ThirdSpace Cafe. (Photo by Christina Easter)

ThirdSpace Reading Room, the only bookstore in Glenville, was opened in June by ThirdSpace Action Lab (TSAL), a community hub and racial equity consulting firm. A “soft opening” of the bookstore was held during Juneteenth weekend and visitors browsed the book selection, toured the space, and purchased books as they spoke with staff. With the sun piercing through the window, staff welcomed visitors to adjoining open spaces that are filled with sofas, coffee tables, and workstations for reading by oneself or with a group.  

The new store is on the first floor of 1464 E. 105th Street, a former medical office building designed by local Black architect Robert P. Madison in the early 1960s for Black physicians who were having trouble renting office space. Both in person and online, visitors to ThirdSpace Reading Room have a wide selection of new and used books to choose from by Black authors and on topics of particular interest to Black people, with plans to expand selection in response to customer requests. 

“We are sorting through thousands of books received from bookstores that are phasing out, donations, and even neighbors,” says Mordecai Cargill, co-founder and creative director of TSAL and ThirdSpace Cafe, which are also located in The Madison. “Our immediate audience is the people in the neighborhood and Black people, and we want to connect them with books.” 

ThirdSpace Reading Room is currently the only Black-owned bookstore in Cleveland, but it builds on a Glenville legacy. In the 1960s, civil rights activist Dorothy Tolliver founded The Neighborhood Book Shoppe at Superior Avenue and East 105th Street, and in the early 2000s Mittie Jordan ran Deuteronomy 8:3 Cafe, Books, and Music in the same building where ThirdSpace Reading Room is located today.

A story about the former Glenville bookstore Deuteromy 8:3 appeared in the October 20, 2006 Plain Dealer. (Courtesy of Cleveland Public Library)

A community hub

The primary business of TSAL is working with its consulting clients to foster racial equity. But operating a bookstore has been a long-term goal of co-founders Cargill and Evelyn Burnett.  

“Over time, we want it to be interconnected,” says Cargill, “so that the same audience that is coming to the physical space becomes involved in the way we engage with our audience who may come to TSAL through our Racial Equity Institute (REI) training.” 

The bookstore will be managed by Harry Atwell, TSAL community manager, who will also be the point of contact for questions, managing online orders, and coordinating events. Individuals, book clubs, event planners, and others interested in hosting or attending events at the bookstore can work with Atwell to arrange to use the adjoining living room, dining room, and business room for their event. 

“Each of the spaces at TSAL serves as a third space,” says ThirdSpace Reading Room designer Celia Williamson,  whose colorful design is consistent with the eclectic style of the co-founders and their staff. “Home is your first space, work is your second space, and you have to have another space, and this is that space. We want people to gather, relax, unwind, and buy a book.”

Energized neighbors

Many nearby business owners are excited about TSAL opening a bookstore in the Glenville neighborhood. Angela Sharpley, owner and founder of Pipe’N Hot Grill – The Seafood Place located just down the block in GlenVillage is “very happy” about the ThirdSpace Reading Room. 

“Normally I have to travel outside of Glenville to purchase a book that I want to read, so I am really excited to see it come into the area,” says Sharpley.  “It will be nice to walk down the street and purchase a book that I am seeking for my daughter and myself.”

Sharpley is a multi-award-winning restaurant owner who has partnered with her daughter, Stesia Swain, to operate her restaurant. “My daughter and I would use the bookstore, because as manufacturers, we do a lot of reading,” says Sharpley. “We use books for information on how to run our business, but many of them are outdated because there are new ways of doing business.”

Sharpley would love to see TSAL carry books on business, cooking, and spirituality. 

Karen Ross, owner and founder of Cleveland Cold Brew Coffee & Cafe located in GlenVillage, did not know that TSAL was opening a bookstore but thinks it’s great to have in the community. “Anytime we can expose our kids to reading, it is a great thing,” says Ross. “Personally, I like to be able to touch books that I purchase rather than go online,” added Ross.  

Ross expects that the books at TSAL will be different from those at the library if they have books based on what people in this neighborhood are looking for. “Hopefully, you can special order books if they find that their customers are looking for certain books as opposed to what you get at the library and other bookstores,” says Ross. (ThirdSpace Reading Room says that it will special order books upon request.)

Cold Brew sells hot and cold beverages, muffins, sandwiches, and other food items. “I would like to look into opportunities to have our products sold in their space,” says Ross when asked about having customers headed to the bookstore. “It would be nice to partner with TSAL so people can purchase our items right in their space.” TSAL, for its part, is interested in developing relationships with businesses in the neighborhood, says Cargill. 

Arriel Scott, founder and owner of licensed daycare Caterpillars To Butterflies at 10933 Superior Avenue, thinks the bookstore will be positive for local kids.   

Scott would like to see TSAL carry books for young children such as soft books, board books, and gross motor skill books. Soft books are a type of book intended for infants, made of fabric or soft plastic, and which can even be used in the bath. Board books are physically sturdy and appropriate for toddlers. Gross motor skill books are used to teach children motor skills such as marching, jumping, and dancing.   

In addition to children’s books, Scott would like to see the TSAL bookstore carry books on business that will help her run her business better. “Books on autism would help me put together a curriculum for our Kindergarten Readiness program, which helps teachers prepare for the children they will be working with,” says Scott.  

A selection of the books offered for sale at ThirdSpace Reading Room bookstore in Glenville. (Photo by Christina Easter)

Open for business, and looking ahead

With the physical bookstore open and the website live, residents and business owners can browse and purchase books for kids and books on business, technology, history, religion and spirituality, crafts and hobbies, and many other genres.  

ThirdSpace Reading Room has already begun to collaborate with other organizations and has partnered with the Cleveland Public Library to host an artist talk with author Ashley C. Ford. Ford will be at TSAL on August 13, 2022, to discuss her bestselling memoir, Somebody’s Daughter

In keeping with the legacy of the historic building and its former tenants, including bookstore Deuteronomy 8:3, the team at ThirdSpace Reading Room is preparing for the long haul. 

“We want to expand our collection to include what people are interested in and are asking for,” says Cargill. “As the bookstore grows up, we will be able to better develop relationships with authors, speakers, and others.” That means partnering with local residents and businesses, too. “Our instincts are to collaborate,” says Cargill.

Keep our local journalism accessible to all

Reader support is crucial as we continue to shed light on underreported neighborhoods in Cleveland. Will you become a monthly member to help us continue to produce news by, for, and with the community?

P.S. Did you like this story? Take our reader survey!

Get The Land's free newsletter in your inbox 2-3x a week

This site uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy.

Scroll to Top