Howard University recently opened its new Barnes & Noble at Howard University bookstore, kicking off the partnership with an appearance by chef and author Carla Hall, co-host of ABC’s popular lifestyle series The Chew. The Howard alumna spoke about her passion for great food, met with fans and signed copies of her latest bestselling book, Carla’s Comfort Foods: Favorite Dishes from Around the World.
Wearing her signature brightly colored glasses and a turquoise scarf that framed her lively smile, the culinary star took center-stage in the newly renovated space, greeting the enthusiastic crowd that gathered to meet the former Bravo TV Top Chef favorite and current owner of Carla Hall Petite Cookies. “One female fan said that cooking had never been her thing,” said Len Scoggins, Barnes & Noble College’s Regional Manager for the Washington D.C. and Virginia area. “Chef Hall inspired her, and this was the first cookbook she had ever purchased. She was very excited to meet her.”
Chef Hall is among an esteemed roster of Howard University alumni, a remarkable list that includes the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American governor L. Douglas Wilder, opera singer Jessye Norman, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison.
Consistently ranked among the nation’s top historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Howard University boasts 258 acres, 115 buildings, and now, a first-class bookstore. “This partnership will improve our offerings and provide students, staff and faculty with more options to support teaching and learning,” said Howard University Interim President Wayne A.I. Frederick in a press release. “Additionally, the renovated space will further enhance our service to the campus and the community at large.”
When the store’s doors opened in April, customers found a completely refreshed inventory of merchandise, clothing, gifts and trade books. “Everyone was very excited to see the new products,” Scoggins reported, “but the store will be even better once the renovations are completed.” The soft opening offered only a preview of the surprises students will find in mid-July, when the store reopens after major changes.
On the store’s first level, a better traffic flow will bring visitors deeper into the clothing and gift department, where they will find an enhanced selection of merchandise, better placement of fixtures, and more space dedicated to Howard emblematic merchandise. The marketplace will be moved from the corner of the store to a site closer to the cash registers, making it easier for shoppers to pick up convenience items on their way out.
On the second level, the textbook department, which currently has prime real estate along windows facing Georgia Avenue, will be moved to the opposite side of the store. In their place, shoppers will find comfortable seating and trade books, ensuring that visitors, rather than books, can take advantage of the spectacular view. Beginning in the fall, the bookstore will offer textbook rentals to the campus for the very first time. “I really wish this partnership had happened sooner,” said Howard University senior Lola Adaoye about the new rental program. “Students will really save a lot of money with this new program.”
As a premier historically black university, Howard is known as an authority and great supporter of African-American literature and authors. The bookstore reflects that commitment, offering a comprehensive selection of titles that reflect the rich history of African-American culture. “It’s very important to offer a wide selection of African-American literature, and our children’s department will also offer many unique titles that you might not find in any other bookstore,” explained Scoggins.
Another source of school pride: The National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) — coordinating body for historically African-American, international Greek letter fraternities and sororities — which was created as a permanent organization on the Howard campus in 1930. Of the nine fraternities and sororities in the NPHC, five were founded at Howard. “Greek life is very important to Howard University,” Scoggins said, “so we worked closely with the University to offer Greek emblematic merchandise specifically for Howard fraternities and sororities.”
While Chef Hall earned her degree in accounting from Howard University, her passion is for food. However, she still manages to apply lessons learned at her alma mater to her culinary career. At the Howard book signing, Hall fondly recalled her days on campus. “I remember Dr. Thompson, who was my accounting teacher, who always instilled in us to do our best,” she said. Hall added that Howard taught her that life is all about being ready for the right opportunity, as well as being prepared for the moment; something she applies to her life every day. “I’m ready for the opportunity, and if I do what I love, I want to work at what I love,” she said proudly.