In a cozy storefront on College Avenue, Brave + Kind is one of Atlanta’s most charming independent bookstores. Black- and woman-owned, this shop offers a highly curated selection of books that are both diverse and inclusive. These days, when most shopping is done online or in big box retailers, it can be hard to find local shops where you can pick up, hold, flip through, and buy books about topics such as race, LGBTQ rights, historical leaders, family diversity, and more.
When Bunnie Hilliard, owner of Brave + Kind, first got involved in the bookseller business, she envisioned the space as being a safe place for people to come together over a shared love of books. “When I opened Brave + Kind as a brick and mortar space, it was my vision that it would be a community space for people to come and gather, to connect and share stories, and to find stories that resonated with them and their families,” said Hilliard.
“I think we all have something fun and unique and special to share with the world,” Hilliard continued, saying that she hopes Brave + Kind acts as a complement to the book community. “Brave’s Vision is to be very intentional about celebrating and elevating diverse books and authors, so that’s why I’m here.”
As for the name? Well, that comes from, of all places, a post-it note. On her desk she has a note she wrote to herself to aid in choosing which new books to sell. It reads “Good story? Diverse characters? Will the kids learn something? Brave + Kind? Mirrors and windows?” Indeed, the very guiding principles that dictate her book choice came to represent the shop as a whole.
Inside the storefront, the space is saturated with color and light. A rainbow of books lines the sides of the shop, ranging in age from picture books to young adult novels and even some adult options. Stools and benches can be brought out to allow for sharing stories with little ones. Tables in the center of the space are stacked high with books. Small knick knacks, tote bags, toys, notepads and other accessories that are sure to appeal to book lovers of all ages can be found on shelves throughout the storefront.
Hilliard’s interest in owning a bookstore comes from a love of children’s books that flourished when she became a mother and she began looking for books to share with her children, now aged 9 and 13. “And in my quest to find and share with them stories where the characters had faces that provided some mirrors, the initial seeds were planted in my mind for what later became Brave + Kind Bookshop.”
Prior to becoming a shop owner, Hilliard’s background was in business, marketing, and financial services. Originally from Jacksonville, Florida, she attended HBCU Florida A&M University before relocating to Atlanta in 2003. While she didn’t consider herself “bookish,” she does have fond memories of patronizing her local library and keeping up to date with the latest Junie B. Jones books in her youth.
As for how she found the storefront on College Ave, she feels there were higher powers at play. “I believe the bookshop chose me,” Hilliard explained. “I came in while it was still under ownership of another resident asking for startup brick and mortar business advice and by the end of the conversation the occupant was offering me the space so that she could move on to a larger location. I believe the universe and my faith rose up to meet my vision.”
Brave + Kind opened its doors three years ago, with two-thirds of their existence during the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. And yet, despite the difficulties all local businesses face, this local gem has survived and thrived. “It has been an interesting journey,” recalls Hilliard wryly. Today, she is focused on strengthening the shop’s internal operations, cultivating an intentionally diverse and inclusive book selection, and deepening the shop’s connections within the community.
Being a member of the Brave + Kind community can mean involvement with special programs such as their Book of the Month Club wherein patrons are delivered a selection of the staff’s favorite picture books each month, as well as special themed selections. The shop aims to provide a conduit for parents to easily find thoughtfully inclusive books that reflect the diversity of our world. So, next time you’re in the area, stop in and take a look for yourself. There is something for every brave and kind little soul at this delightful shop.
Originally written for Homestead Stories