Fall In Love With This Enchanting Romance Bookstore

Romance Bookstore, photo of Bea and Leah Koch standing in front of a mock up of their store, The Ripped Bodice, books
via Kickstarter

The Ripped Bodice is your go to store for all things romance!

The Ripped Bodice

In the United States, The Ripped Bodice in Culver City, CA is one-of-a-kind. While there are many bookstores spread out across the U.S. devoted to science fiction, comic books, mystery, and other genre, The Ripped Bodice is the only romance bookstore in the country.

Sisters Leah and Bea Koch have been fans of romance since they were young. As adults, they knew they wanted to open a book store together but didn't decide to open an all-romance bookstore until they were met with disapproval at other bookstores. Bea says, "When we ask for the romance section, we can be met with anything from confusion, to derision, to outright hostility."

Despite making up one-fifth of adult fiction book sales and being a billion dollar industry, there's a huge stigma that is attached with reading romance. Romance author Courtney Milan says, "There's kind of a stigma that you can't be a smart girl if you're reading romance." Many fans of the genre can likely agree.

The Koch sisters set out to change that.

Their Origin Story

They began a Kickstarter in 2015, and it turns out romance fans were on board. Backed by 599 people, they met and exceeded their goal of $90,000 and were able to open The Ripped Bodice in just four months.

"I think that part of the reason that they did the Kickstarter was to just measure the interest in what they were doing. 'Is this worth starting it, building a company for? Do we have that kind of support?' It turned out they do," says Maris Kreizman, the Publishing Outreach Lead for Kickstarter.

Romance fans were eager to have a space all their own. "We've been hearing from people who have read romance their whole lives and are so excited about the prospect of a store just for them," they told BookRiotwhile raising money to open the store.

"We were always convinced that the community would coalesce behind us," says Bea.

Focus On Diversity

The Ripped Bodice's nonjudgmental approach plays a big part in the store's success. When talking with Racked, Leah discussed their "no blink policy." "We don't want an ounce of embarrassment or shame to affect our customers."

They also make a concerted effort to stock diverse books, including books featuring protagonists and love interests that are people of color and LGBTQ. "[We] won't be separating POC romance from non-POC romance, it will be shelved with its appropriate sub-genre." The Ripped Bodice compiles a yearly racial diversity report that "tracks the publication of books written by authors of color and indigenous peoples in the romance genre."

Many customers come in looking for books with characters like them. According to Leah, "It's some variation of the question: Do you have a romance about someone like me? Whether that is, I'm Jewish, or I'm in a wheelchair, or I'm black, or I'm Muslim, or I'm a lesbian, or I'm pansexual, or I'm transgender or I'm whatever. A lot of times the answer is yes, but you only have one option. I wish I had 10 options for you - but right now I only have one."

While diversity is coming to romance, they can only do so much. "Strides are being made, she says, but it's slow."

The Ripped Bodice keeps a selection of books in Spanish stocked too.

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