Imix Bookstore hosts music-filled fundraiser to keep doors open

Mercer 2881

Marla Schevker

Imix Bookstore, located in Eagle Rock.

The Imix bookstore is a small shop among many other shops on Eagle Rock Boulevard. The front room’s walls are painted bright yellow and teal and on the wall opposing the window front stands a new mural of a Chicana woman who appears to be flying against the yellow paint.

Many bookshelves stand against the walls. While most are filled with books, some hold candles, jewelry, clothing and picture frames. In the middle of the room stands a smaller bookcase with dress shirts and postcards scattered all over it.

Art hangs in the next room. This room is generally used for community events and the floor displays the Lotus symbol and the bookstore's name.

While Imix, pronounced ee-meesh, appears to stand tall, in truth the small independent Eagle Rock store's days might be numbered. On Friday night, Imix held a fundraiser in hopes of raising the money it needs to keep the business open. After the fundraiser, Imix raised $5,300 and Proprietor Elisa Garcia is optimistic that the store will be able to stay open through the end of the year.

"The fundraiser obviously exceeded my expectations," she said. "I didn't think we were going to pull it off. I'm hoping that now that I'm caught up with everything I'll be able to ride out the rest of the year and see what happens."

Were Imix bookstore to close, it would be one less independent bookstore in a market dominated by chain and online such as Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com.

The store has been opened for eight years and has been at its location on Eagle Rock for six. Garcia said the store’s name is a Mayan word meaning regeneration and is symbolized by the lotus symbol.

“We’re not just a bookstore and we’re not just a community space,” she said. “We’re a hybrid of something new and different and I liked that as a name for a store.”

The fundraiser is a collective idea organized by volunteers from the store, said hip-hop artist Jonah Deocampo, who goes by the name Bambu. A concert was held at the American Legion hall, next door, while food and silk-screening could be found inside the bookstore.

“All these folks that got together had been working with the bookstore and said they had to do something,” he said. “(Garcia) said she had to do this fundraiser and all these people are coming out to perform on their own dime for free, just to raise money to save the store.”

Food was catered by Comida y Cultura, who will donate all of the sales from their water and 15 percent of their food sales to Imix. A silk-screener, Dewey Tafoya, charged for T-shirts but was silk-screening for free to help draw in a larger crowd.

Performances included artists such as Mystic Olmeca, Rocky Rivera and 2Mex. While typically a show has three or four performers, the fundraiser had eight performances by people who just wanted to help.

"Because all these people wanted to come out and support, we just packed the bill," Deocampo said.

Deocampo said he has known Garcia for 10 years and has volunteered at the store since it opened. One of Garcia's biggest downfalls, he said, is that she is so open with the space. She rarely charges people if they want to hold community events or art shows in her store.

"Now the business is suffering because she doesn’t ask for money, she doesn’t make that a requirement that you have to pay her for the space," he said. "It’s sad for me to have to say that it’s a problem. That should not be a problem, it’s the way our community should work but unfortunately we live in a capitalist society. That’s the only way to stay afloat."

The events at the bookstore are free because Garcia says art should be available to everyone.

“They are free because I think they should be,” she said. “I think people should have access to the arts and it shouldn’t be a privilege to come in and hear someone speak or pick up a book and read it. People should have a space, whether they have the means or not, to be a part of these dialogues and be exposed to different things. “

Community member Sandra Figueroa-Villa said she supports the bookstore because it is an inviting place to get books and gifts. She said there aren't enough of these type of community stores and she appreciates the variety of cultural books found at the store.

"Every time there's a store like this closes, it's because the community doesn't support it," Figueroa-VIlla said.

Even with her admirable, family-like approach, Garcia needed to raise $5,000 to pay the bills to keep the store open. Thanks to a PayPal account attached to the bookstore’s Web site, $1,200 had been donated before the fundraiser even started.

“If we don’t raise the money, we’re probably going to have to close,” she said.

The bookstore is saved for another month if they meet their fundraising goals, Deocampo said. At that point it will be time to rework the business plan, including planning more events to bring in customers, such as Off The Books, an open mic night run by himself, DJ Phatrick and DJ Toks.

“We will probably bring Off The Books and do everything we possibly can to get more books on the shelf and to keep the space open,” he said.

The entire community is coming together to try to save Imix from closing its doors. Garcia’s store is one of the few places left in L.A. County of its kind.

“In Los Angeles, there is no community spaces left,” Garcia said. “Everything is corporately driven and sponsored. You can go and hang out at Starbucks and use the Internet, but it’s not really a place for people to gather. It’s a city full of artists but they don’t have the spaces or the access to show their work.”

Camille DeSoto, the owner of Lady, a clothing store down the street, came to the fundraiser to support Garcia because she is supportive of the neighborhood. She is still in disbelief that if the fundraiser didn't go well, the store could potentially close.

"It's a great store to have in the neighborhood," DeSoto said. "(Imix closing down) is not going to happen."

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