Bookstore of the week: Eso Won Books
Owner James Fulgate and his partner, Thomas Hamilton, opened Eso Won Books in 1990. The original location was at Crenshaw and Slauson, upstairs from the shop Africana Imports. "The UPS people hated us," Fulgate laughs.
Since the fall of 2006, the store has been located at 4331 Degnan Blvd. in Leimert Park. Although Eso Won Books' current store has more than 3,200 square feet, it's a shade smaller than its previous location on La Brea.
In 1995, a young activist who'd just written a memoir came to Eso Won for a signing. There wasn't a huge crowd for Barack Obama and his book, "Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance," but the bookstore made him feel welcome. When he returned to Los Angeles with "The Audacity of Hope," Obama told his publishers that's where he wanted to go. The store sold more than 900 books.
Selling books at that volume is a rare bounty for Eso Won. In late 2007, news spread that rough economic times and discounts from Amazon and retail chains had brought such difficulties to the store that it might close by the end of the year. But friends rallied, including Pastor John J. Hunter of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, who called the bookstore "a treasure in the African American community." Eso Won pulled through.