Eclectuals, a purveyor of books, coffee, fashion and style, is not your typical bookstore. On their website you’ll find that their sequined background boasts hand-painted affirmations like “Believe in yourself” and “Embrace the journey.” Maybe it’s the fact that they offer an unexpected hybrid of products, from coffee to artisan goods to books, but it’s clear to me that Ecelctuals is more than a bookstore.
Owner L’Toya (Toy) Robertson describes Eclectuals’ origins in candid terms. “It was not a glam story,” she starts. There was no “lightning struck and I saw a burning bush” moment, but rather her passion and momentum steadily built with time. For Toy, the idea of owning a bookstore had been in the works since 2006, from years of being an avid reader and living in Los Angeles County. While there were plenty of independent bookstores around, there wasn’t one that quite resonated with Toy. Bookstores were lacking a space to sit down and vibe; where you could invite local artists to perform; where avid readers could congregate and immerse themselves in their readings for hours; where creators could be inspired. Bookstores needed to go beyond selling books — they needed to provide a space to create.
As an independent bookstore, business was difficult in the beginning, but Toy’s vision paid off. Eclectuals became a platform for Toy and her husband to create beyond all expectations. Not only does Eclectuals sell books, they also make and sell their own fresh ground coffee, artisan-made apparel and accessories, and are soon to expand to apothecary needs, from essential oils to skin creams. While legal-secretary-turned-bookseller Toy handles the books and marketing side of the business, her husband James is the resident fashion designer and artisan mastermind. They balance each other well, a symbiotic partnership founded on creativity and much-appreciated reality checks.
With so much to offer, when I asked Toy what she was proudest of, there was no hesitation in her answer: Mahogany-in-Print. Mahogany-in-Print is Eclectuals’ unique themed, curated book stacks of Black independent and notable authors, accompanied by a reading guide. It is Eclectuals’ own way of recognizing and celebrating Black voices and their place in American history. Toy remarks, “I could never really find a vast section of African American literature in a typical bookstore. They normally have a tiny, miniscule section buried with other ‘racial’ texts. On the flipside, when I go to a Black-owned bookstore, it’s a lot. But I’m also interested in Pride and Prejudice.” Eclectuals straddles and pioneers this balance, promoting inclusivity and intellectual empowerment at the core of their values.
Currently, Eclectuals is online-only while they search for a new space amidst the social distancing protocol. While many independent bookstores were hit hard during the coronavirus pandemic, Toy remains optimistic. Eclectuals has been receiving extra love with the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement that has spread to the literary world. From partnering with a local, self-published author, Eclectuals is only getting started with making a large impact on Los Angeles’s literary scene.
Ultimately, Toy envisions Eclectuals as becoming a place you want to go out of your way to visit, a welcoming space that is family-oriented and family-owned. She emphasizes, “I want this to be here for years to come forever. To have an impact and to leave something behind.”
In Toy’s own words, Eclectuals brings all the elements of creativity together. The store is an “incredible mix of (blank).” A perpetual state of incompletion and unlimited growth. It becomes everything that you, as a reader, a creator, need it to be. For now, your next favorite eclectic + intellectual bookstore will have to do.