According to Richard Hunt, founder of Roebling Point Books & Coffee
, the city of Covington needs a bookstore and coffee shop like a body needs a heart and mind.
The “books” part of the Greenup Street establishment came first; Hunt has a background in publishing and a surefire passion for the written word. When a nearby coffee shop closed, he and his team recognized the void and decided to fill it, knowing that coffee and books tend to attract the same crowd.“
In many respects, we’re completely indebted to the Covington community at large,” Hunt says when asked about the store's beginnings. “It is very much a symbiotic relationship.”
Roebling Point (or RoPoBoCo, as Hunt deemed it) was chosen as one of eight finalists for ArtWorks Big Pitch
, which supports businesses focused on art, culture and creativity. Though some may be skeptical of a bookstore's ability to thrive in an increasingly e-book-centric world, Hunt remains confident.
“What’s incredible to witness is how independent bookselling is once again in a growth phase,” he says, “(and) for reasons one might expect: the buy-local movement, a push-back from chain store blandness and because we recognize our customers by name, drink preference, favorite authors/titles. ... We appreciate their individuality.”
Hunt tries to set Roebling Point apart by truly engaging with the community around it. The shop is currently a direct supporter of local organizations like Green Umbrella
, Keep Covington Beautiful
, NKU’s Steely Library
and the Center for Great Neighborhoods
“One thing I’ve learned after 30 years in publishing is that readers are both inquisitive and appreciative of creative approaches,” he says. “Our strengths are our community, our steadfast commitment to literacy and our aspiration to always help.”
Hunt sees Covington as the perfect backdrop for his mission.
“We like to be part of the revitalization of the area but are mindful of how changes ripple through the community,” he says. “Gentrification only gets ghastly when pushing people from their homes — and from all the evidence I’ve seen, Covington is being very careful to repopulate abandoned spaces first while looking to make those folks living here safer, engaged and proud of their town.”
If Roebling Point can pull off a win at Big Pitch’s final night competition on Aug. 27, the company intends to use most of the prize money to provide better staff pay and benefits and maintain or even increase its active involvement in the community. Hunt has a passion for fighting childhood illiteracy and would like nothing more than to contribute more to the cause. As a bootstrapped company, any little boost would help.
“Here’s the essence of what we seek at Roebling Point Books & Coffee,” he says. “That every individual, regardless of race, age, gender, income, birthplace, political and religious persuasion, sexual orientation and personal aspiration be granted a chance to succeed. And we’ll do our share by putting books in people’s hands every time we get the chance.”
Soapbox is profiling each of the eight finalists in the 2015 ArtWorks Big Pitch, a 10-week mentorship program that offers artists, makers, designers and creative entrepreneurs a chance to claim up to $20,000 in cash prizes and professional services. The program concludes Aug. 27 with the finalists giving five-minute presentations to a panel of judges and an audience.