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Wooden Shoe Bookstore has been around since Jan. 1976 Photo: Facebook.
Wooden Shoe Bookstore has been around since Jan. 1976. Photo: Facebook.

Feminist literature to classic rock vinyls, how Wooden Shoe Bookstore on South Street became the one-stop shop for books and music in Philly

The nonprofit bookstore in South Philly is looking for volunteers as it makes a roaring comeback from COVID-19.

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1976 was in the middle of one of America’s most celebrated decades in its history. 

The war in Vietnam just came to an end and the second wave of feminism was in full effect.

In Philly, a group of individuals wanted to open a bookstore where people could stop by and learn more about what was going on in the world, which led to the opening of Wooden Shoe Bookstore in January 1976 at its original location on 20th and Sansom Streets.

“The store was started by a group of people who were interested in promoting and distributing libertarian-leftist ideas and strategies,” said Carl Craft, co-founder of Wooden Shoe Bookstore in a recent interview with AL DÍA.

The early founders of the Wooden Shoe were members of Philadelphia Solidarity, a group of labor-orientated libertarian socialists.

“Our idea kind of came out of the left, all of the founding members were originally involved in all of the aspects that were happening in the 1970s, such as the opposition of the war in Vietnam and the Black Panther Party,” said Craft. “We thought that we weren’t going to make much profit with just the books, so we also sold vinyl records.”

The nonprofit bookstore was a success for decades, but a fire destroyed the store’s original location in 1997, forcing a  move to 5th and South St before landing at its current location, on 7th and South Street.

“We have been here for 15 years now,” Craft said.

Because of the popular location, Craft’s business has seen many new faces over the years. Of late, Wooden Shoe has seen a resurgence of interest in its left-leaning books amid the rise of right-wing politics on the national scale.

“My impression is that since 2015 and the rise of political differences, there has been a lot more people wanting to look at the books that we have,” he said.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in the Spring of 2020, there has been a limited amount of people who are able to step into the bookstore.

But it didn’t stop things completely.

“Since the pandemic started, we have been able to do some online events,” he said.

One negative ordeal that Craft and his business had to endure was the lack of volunteers that came back because of safety concerns and other opportunities.

“Volunteers are a very important part of our business because we are incorporated as a nonprofit organization,” he said.

As restrictions continue to ease in Philly, Craft is seeking volunteers who are dedicated to helping his small business succeed and help bring new faces into the community.

“We are also seeking donations to make our bathroom wheelchair accessible to our visitors who come in and need assistance,” said Craft.

The bookstore is dedicated to inviting an all-inclusive community that is looking to educate themselves in diverse ideologies, and a place to add more classic vinyls to their record collections.

The Wooden Shoe Bookstore is a prime example of community togetherness.

“We just ask that you stop by and check out everything that we have to offer,” said Craft.

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