By Peggy Mooney
Editor�s note: February is Black History Month. The Topeka Metro News will recognize several black business owners this month. To have your business considered for recognition, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Peggy Mooney
Deborah Dawkins didn�t move to Topeka from Governor�s Island, New York because she wanted to. She came to town with her husband, Alexander, who was stationed with the Coast Guard.
Now 12 years later, she loves Topeka. She�s settled in, even to owning her own business.
In November of 2004, Dawkins opened Above All Books and Gifts, a Christian bookstore, at 3632 SW Topeka Blvd. in the White Lakes Center.
Dawkins, originally from Cleveland, Ohio, says that owning the Christian bookstore is her way of “giving to the community.”
Above All Books and Gifts features mostly religious books and video tapes, as well as many educational items. The store also offers a large selection of gift items like t-shirts, ties and coffee mugs.
Dawkins says that the Christian retail bookstore meets a special need for its customers. She says that people sometimes need a “spiritual uplift” and that by shopping in the store, selecting a religious book or tape gives them the encouragement they need.
When choosing the location for her bookstore, Dawkins said that she chose the White Lakes Center because it is on the east side of town.
“I believed that a bookstore was needed on the east side,” she said. “There were bookstores in the west part of town, but many times people who live on the east side don�t want to drive to the west side.
Working in retail is nothing new for Dawkins. Before opening Above All Books and Gifts, she operated the Antioch Book Nook, a small bookstore at the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church.
It was when the Antioch Book Nook closed that Dawkins decided it was time to open her own bookstore.
All her life Dawkins had been busy. In New York, she was active in clubs and church, did a lot of volunteer work and operated her own direct sales business.
One of the first things Dawkins did after arriving in Topeka was to search for a church. When she found the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church it wasn�t long before she took a job as the church secretary. A little later she was promoted to office administrator.
Dawkins was also instrumental in laying the foundation for the Antioch Family Life Center where she served as its interim executive director for nearly a year.
Dawkins took to Topeka as a duck takes to water. It wasn�t long before she was volunteering as a business coach and mentor for the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, a program that is sponsored by the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce.
Business at Above All Books and Gifts is good.
“We�re doing about what we should be doing in sales,” she said, happily. “We will be in the black this year.
“Sales were up 30 percent higher in January than in January of last year. We did an excellent business over the holidays.”
When asked how the economy affects sales, Dawkins said that the store is “constantly building a base.”
“The economy definitely affects us,” she said. “Our items are not always needed like food and gasoline, so when those prices go up people tend to tighten���we feel the crunch. People only have so much disposable income to spend and have to make choices.”
Dawkins competes with other bookstores in the area by providing friendly and personal service.
“We provide a quiet place to shop and people like our personal service,” she said. “We treat our customers like family.
“Not long ago, I drove in the rain to deliver a book to a lady who could not get to the store. We are proud of our personal service.”
Dawkins had some advice for folks who might be thinking about starting their own small business.
“You have to like a roller coaster ride,” she said, with a laugh. “There are a lot of ups and downs and new adventures every day. But, that�s what I like about it.”
Above All Books and Gifts have one part-time employee, as well as Dawkins and her partner, Elizabeth Ross.