The nearly 2,500 miles that separate East Palo Alto, California, from Newton County were not enough to deter Tamara Wright from packing up her belongings, setting out for a better life and pursuing a decades-old dream. The 54-year-old mother of two visited Georgia in the early 2000s while working for a major medical company with clinics in the state, found the area to her liking and started the process of purchasing land and building a house. Wright eventually relocated to the Atlanta area in 2006. However, she took perhaps the most important and ambitious step in her transition on Feb. 21, 2020, when she opened the doors to the Onyx Bookstore Café in Covington.
In this exclusive interview with The Newton County Magazine, Wright details her journey from the West Coast to the Deep South, addresses the challenges associated with owning a small business and touches on her other areas of interest:
What specifically do you like about this area?
The small-town atmosphere and being just outside of Atlanta but feeling like it’s miles away. I like knowing your neighbors and people in the community. I can go to the grocery store and know the workers by name or see people I know while I’m out running errands.
How did you end up as an owner of a bookstore?
This was a dream I had for over 30 years. I did a lot of research on the cost of operating a bookstore café and spoke with other independent bookstore owners. I was fortunate to have financial help from my mother before she passed in 2017. I found the location just from driving around and contacting developers for cost. My location is close to my home, and it was within my budget. I began building my catalog and hired a contractor to give it the look. I was going for an extension of my home, so I made a list of what I needed to do and tackled it one by one until it was done.
“I like knowing your neighbors and people in the community. I can go to the grocery store and know the workers by name or see people I know while I’m out running errands.”Tamara Wright
What are some of the challenges you face in the small-business world?
Being that I opened right before the COVID-19 shutdown was the biggest challenge, along with Amazon. People have become accustomed to quick access and not wanting to wait. Also, being the only brick-and-mortar bookstore was daunting. Many people are still discovering that I’m here.
Are you an avid reader?
Yes, I love historical books, dystopia books and biographies. My favorite book is “The Wake of the Wind,” by J. California Cooper. It takes place during emancipation and follows a woman and how she and her family built a legacy during a time when it was forbidden. Cooper had a way of writing that was folklore but reality, and she wrote in the dialect of the time period.
What do you do in your spare time?
I enjoy gardening. I’m growing cilantro seeds and bell peppers. I’ve tried several times to get them to stay alive. I’m determined to make it stick this time (laughs). I also like home-improvement projects.