Cherokee owner’s dream comes true with children’s bookstore
Mindy Smith, left, and Cherokee Nation citizen Taryn Smith own and operate Lavender’s Bleu Literacy Market, an independent children’s bookstore in Tulsa focusing solely on children’s literature. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
A reading area features board books, a tent, and “Where the Wild Things Are”-themed walls at Lavender’s Bleu Literacy Market in Tulsa. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
A reading room resembling the Chronicles of Narnia book series is one of many features at Lavender’s Bleu Literacy Market in Tulsa. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
One of three tutoring rooms at Lavender’s Bleu Literacy Market is decorated in a “Charlotte’s Web” theme. The tutoring rooms are designed to help children become more interested in reading. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The Dr. Seuss-themed story time area is for smaller children to enjoy story events held each week at Lavender’s Bleu Literacy Market in Tulsa. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
A multi-purpose event room is decorated for a Harry Potter-themed birthday party made to resemble the Great Hall from the Harry Potter book series. Lavender’s Bleu Literacy Market hosts themed birthday parties surrounding children’s literature. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TULSA – What started as a dream has become a reality for the owners and operators of Lavender’s Bleu Literacy Market, an independent children’s bookstore.
Owned by Cherokee Nation citizen Jim Smith, his wife Mindy, and their daughter Taryn, also a CN citizen, Lavender’s Bleu Literacy Market opened Dec. 8 and focuses on children’s literature for infants to young adults.
Mindy was a literature educator for 34 years when she said she had a dream about owning a children’s bookstore.
“It literally was a dream. I had a dream one night of owning a bookstore. I had always taught children’s literature, and I had been very involved in children’s books when I was teaching kids, so I’ve always loved it. But I don’t know that I ever thought about owning a bookstore,” Mindy said.
After retiring, she began looking into what it took to run a business.
“Really my husband was super supportive, my whole family. I just started some preliminary (research), well what would it cost to get started,” she said.
She said they got information from the CN’s Small Business Assistance Center.
“Everything was just kind of a meant-to-be-sort of thing, but funding was in issue. My husband reached out to Cherokee Nation Small Business Assistance (Center) to just kind of get some feedback of where do go, what do we do, how do we start this. So they were our partners all through the entire process, and they are where we got our funding. And they have been such a blessing because without them we wouldn’t be here. We wouldn’t be able to do this,” she said.
After finding a location, Mindy said she knew the space could be used for the bookstore’s different components she was planning, which was to sell age-appropriate books, literacy materials for teachers, tutoring services with reading specialists and an event space.
“Yes, we are an independent children’s bookstore, and we’re the only one in the state. There are places that sell children’s books, but there’s no place dedicated to children’s literature, and so I wanted us to be that. And we also are a reading/tutoring center,” Mindy said.
She said she’s hired reading tutors who are certified and hold doctorate degrees.
“What we found when we were doing our research is that people tutoring in reading, you were hard pressed to even find a teacher, let alone a certified specialist, to work with the kids. So we wanted it to be at a level that parents could feel confident that we definitely know what we’re doing, and we’ve had years and years of experience in working with children. Whatever their deficits are we know how to pinpoint them and fix them quickly,” she said.
Mindy said she only carries specialized literacy-learning materials that are used by teachers and parents who homeschool their children.
“We’ve tried to also include not only specific teaching materials but also games that are learning games, so the kids feel like its fun, but yet they’re really learning. That’s mostly what we carry, nothing that’s not literacy related,” she said.
A multipurpose room is used for themed birthday parties and as a meeting space for literacy groups.
For the summer, Lavender’s Bleu will host reading programs and make-and-take events themed around books.
Assistant Manager Taryn said it is important that Native businesses like her family’s business are “promoted.”
“It’s important especially as a Native American, Native American businesses need to be promoted. There’s a need for more Native people to be in the public. I think it’s important that people are aware that there’s more than just what’s in the small communities, that there’s Native people everywhere and they are business owners,” Taryn said.
Lavender’s Bleu Literacy Market is at 8210 S. Harvard Ave. For more information, call 918-992-5222 or visit lbliteracymarket.com
or Lavender’s Bleu Literacy Market on Facebook.