Sisters Donya and Donna Craddock, owners of The Dock Bookshop, have found success where many larger chain bookstores have failed. Celebrating their 13th year, the sisters’ ethnically diverse book shop has become the largest full-service, Black-owned independent bookstore in Texas and the Southwest.
The Dock is part book store, part community gathering space. We chatted with Donya Craddock at the beginning of 2021, after 2020 brought both challenges and opportunity.
Tell us about the bookstore’s name.
"I remember reading a book about the Greek Isles, where trade and commerce happened at the docks. That’s the kind of place I want, where people can start their journey. It’s like there’s an ocean of books, and we help you navigate. It’s also the last four letters of my name."
What has sustained your business for 13 years?
"We have survived because of the consciousness of people understanding the importance of having a Black-owned book store nested in the community. And, small businesses raise the vibrancy of the community in Meadowbrook. At one point, we were up against Borders, Half Price Books and Lifeway. We’ve survived beyond the stores. On a spiritual side, I think it’s God."
What challenges did 2020 bring, specifically the pandemic?
"It was really hard. We had a loyal base that wanted to see the bookstore stay open. People were still shopping but that was just covering the basic bills."
"We’ve always done lectures. People ask “how did you shift so fast?” We’ve always been doing this. Authors have been willing to talk via radio platform in our store. We’ve had high-profile authors in store but some interviewed via our Dock Radio, which has lent itself to YouTube and other platforms."
Your store’s in the heart of Meadowbrook, but you have a diverse audience, both ethnically and age-wise.
"We’ve always had white, elderly people that come through during the day, getting greetings cards and things. Now we have a lot more young people coming through the store. It’s about diversity and ambiance. [Anyone can] come here and it’s nice and friendly. We treasure what we have. My mother, Debora Gregory, does a lot of the decorating and making things look nice."
"We have a lot of people from Dallas County, Frisco and McKinney. Lots of mixed-race families come in from Waco and Killeen. They’re looking for the ambiance, and to see themselves represented in books. With all the blended families, parents are looking for help teaching a part of their history to their children."
This past summer, Martha Stewart used her national website to promote a baker’s dozen Black-owned bookstores and The Dock was listed. Tell us more.
"Martha Stewart put our cause on her platform and a lot of [her followers] got mad because she spotlighted Black businesses. Black businesses have a lot of different issues in order to make a brick-and-mortar store run. White people can get credit from all different sources. [Black-owned businesses] are not getting $20,000 loans."
The Dock has also made Oprah Winfrey's list of 125 Black-Owned Independent Bookstores by State.
What items have sold well during the pandemic?
"On the website, under The Dockside, we have some side items, little kits for STEM projects and robotics. They’re pretty much sold out. These are projects parents can do with their children."
"We let our community help shape our bookstore. When we opened, we sold Louis Lamour books because people wanted those. Anyone walking in looking for a book could find something."
You host Open Mic nights and poetry slams. Tell us more.
"Every Tuesday. A little girl from Nashville came to the bookstore to play music –– it was a very diverse night. We get folks from everywhere. Again, people are looking for diversity and ambiance. We also have the Dock Power Hour, which features authors talking about social justice, race relations, non-fiction, history and cultural books."
Note: Events are currently virtual, streaming on Facebook and Instagram.
Monthly special events are held as well, including some Kwanzaa programming in December. Tell us about the next event, "An Evening with Cicely Tyson."
"Cicely Tyson has never written a memoir, and her book "Just As I Am" came out January 4. On January 28 she will do an [pre-taped] interview with Whoopi Goldberg and then a [live] Q&A session with her editor. To be able to speak with her (as a bookstore), it’s a remarkable place because people want to write memoirs. We’re in a great space right now. Tickets are $35 and will include a copy of her book."
Learn more about "An Evening with Cicely Tyson" here.
The Dock Bookstore sells memberships to support their weekly and monthly programming, book clubs, author events and more. Join today!