Noticing Neighbors Bliss Books & Wine
Some pairs just go together. Bliss Books & Wine perfectly pairs the bliss of cozy reading with the social community of enjoying wine. La’Nesha Frazier and La’Nae Robinson are the two sisters that started this independent bookstore, and between their pop ups and active online book club—they really do build community wherever they go.
I got the chance to talk with the Bliss Sisters about what this business means to them.
Hayley: Can you explain Bliss Books & Wine for readers that are just meeting you?
Yes! So Bliss Books & Wine is an independent bookstore that caters to book lovers, of course, and wine enthusiasts. We want to provide the community gathering place for people to come and relax, read, converse, and sample wines.
When I came to the pop up, I saw you had paired these two things together and I was like: that makes so much sense! That just vibes! La’Nesha: Agreed! (Laughs) Hayley: I want to know: Who was the first person in your life that inspired your love of reading?
So I was the early reader, La’Nesha was not, and my reading role model was my mother. She always had a book with her because she was always reading, and she would also read to us at night. So I just kind of mimicked what I saw her do and I loved the bedtime stories.
I tried to get Le’Nesha to love the bedtime stories, and she did not love the bedtime stories! (Laughs) She adopted her love of reading much later in life, but she reads more than I do now. Like, multiple books at one time, but— Hayley: Oh, wow. La’Nae: I've always, always always been an avid reader.
Right, and so again, she said her role model was my mom and so my role models were both of them: my sister and my mom. You could not pay me to read when I was younger, it just just did not work. It was forced. It was bad. It was all that.
The only thing that I would probably read was the Archie Comic Books. Once I got into those, I started reading. But it was only those and nothing outside of that, only Archie comic books. When I got into college and grad school, that's when it became more of a love for reading at that point. But before then, you couldn't get me to read a book.
La’Nae: I tried!
La’Nesha: She tried oh yeah, your recordings are awful. The videos of me as a kid, sitting there, they're both trying to force me to read and I just refused.
That's so cool, though. I would think you might be able to reach people that don't automatically go towards reading because you're able to speak to that.
La’Nesha: Yeah, definitely.
Hayley: When I came to the pop up I got a great recommendation from you. I told you I like poetry and then you recommended a book that I've ended up loving: Clap When You Land. It's telling a fiction story with poetry, which is such a nice combo. La’Nesha: Yes. Hayley: I feel like you probably have a lot of great book recommendations. Is there anything you're reading right now that you’re loving?
Let's see, so we're currently reading Firekeeper’s Daughter for our monthly book club, which is starting to be really, really good. 11 chapters in and I'm already hooked. Then there is the one that we just finished that I love, and everyone reading is saying really good things about it: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Hayley: On the list, then!
La’Nae: Good luck, I was trying to blow through that one. I was hoping I didn't have work to do so I could keep reading and stay up all night. Our group really, really enjoyed that one. That's a must read for the summer.
Anything uplifting that comes to mind? La’Nesha:
As far as uplifting or motivating books, I know La’Nae’s favorite book is Untamed by Glennon Doyle. That book is amazing. I can't say that is my favorite because I'm a fantasy fiction person, so my favorite book is Legendborn by Tracy Deonn. But Untamed is amazing. Like it’s an annual read for me for sure.
So if anybody was looking for a powerful, motivating type of book, that right there is where they should start.
What inspires you about it? What makes it an annual read?
So many good quotes in there, and so many honest stories. She shares relatable thoughts that she has about parenting, about relationships, and understanding yourself. It’s all the thoughts that you have internally, but tend to think no one else could possibly have that same thought. Then to see it in print is like: I'm not alone! I'm not crazy, these are valid feelings! Hayley: Right! La’Nae: It's just this sense of excitement in being seen and heard that comes when you read the words. It is phenomenal.
That’s beautiful. La’Nesha: And it also talks about boundaries. Setting boundaries for yourself, setting boundaries for other people, and not letting people into your space that don't respect those boundaries. It’s an empowerment book. It teaches you how to be empowered, how to love yourself, and then in turn you can love others as well.
La’Nae: And that it's OK to not be perfect. I can speak for myself: I strive for perfection, and it's hard for me to not make that mark. You just have to allow yourself that little bit of grace, and other people that little bit of grace. We don't live in a perfect world. We're not going to master it all, just keep going and keep trying!
You mentioned your book club, and we're in a time where people really value connection. How have you seen joy and connection from leading the book club?
Right now it is all virtual, because we started it up during the very beginning of the pandemic. Hayley: That's neat.
La’Nae: We started by getting our first book in April 2020, and actually met online to discuss it in May. So a little over a year now.
We have people from all across the country and it provided a way for us to connect during a time where no one was gathering. Plus we all had this extra time on our hands, so reading is perfect for that. I’ll always push reading! Then just to be able to give everyone something to look forward to was a gift. We are looking forward to eventually meeting in person, but we'll always keep the virtual aspect. Our members are so spread out and this group gels so well, it just brings in all different people. It’s a whole vibe, even virtually! (Laughs)
Absolutely! What have you enjoyed from being able to connect with readers across the country? Because that's very unique.
It is. I like the fact that for the book club we let the group decide. We vote on the books that we're reading every month, and it's good to get different people and hear viewpoints in different genres that you may not necessarily read often, different authors that you're not exposed to, or books that are first time reads for you.
Like Clap When You Land. I probably never would have read because it's not written in prose, and when opening it up it’s obvious right away: this is something totally different! It’s a wonderful book and I really enjoyed it, but I don’t know if I would have picked it up on my own. So just having other people introduce picks to us and share different ideas, different opinions—it's just amazing to me to have so many different people spread out in different regions that can all come together for this discussion. Hayley:
That's a really open minded kind of space.
This next one is a little bit of a spiritual question: what is your intention with what you’re creating? What are you hoping your space will provide for people?
La’Nae: Happiness! A place where you can go and feel free to be yourself, not put on any kind of airs. You're free to be you, you're free to love yourself, you're free to love others. You're also free to discuss different ideas, and it’s in the name: Bliss!
We want you to just relax and enjoy doing the things that you love, and for us, that's reading and drinking wine! That’s what makes us happy, so why not open up a place for others to read and experience that same happiness?
I agree with La’Nae, and it's also a place of inclusion for everybody. It’s for introverts, it's for extroverts. Once we get the storefront open, it will have a place for extroverts to come and be with their friends: hang out and enjoy the tasting bar. It's also for introverts, so maybe you don't want to talk? You could just have a glass of wine and sit over in a corner somewhere and read a book.
It’s a sense of community for everybody, book lovers and wine enthusiasts alike.
It's for like minded people that want to find a sense of community in being able to relax, sip, and read a book.
Do you have any kind of timeline on the store front? I'm sure you're being asked this a lot!
Hopefully by the end of this year, it will be up and running.
OK, very cool. We will keep updated with you. That is very, very exciting.
I love how you mentioned it's inclusive for introverts and extroverts because sometimes people don't think about that aspect of inclusion.
Well I'm an extrovert and an introvert, and she's just an introvert— La’Nae: That exists in an extroverted world! (Laughs) La’Nesha: So we need a place for both, right? For everybody to feel like they belong and be a part of. So we don't want it to be like a bar where extroverts thrive and we just leave all the introverts out. No, we want it to include everybody.
All media originally published by Bliss Books & Wine via their online platforms.