The red velvet couch evokes a few ideas, the foremost of them being romance. When I first walk into The Ripped Bodice, a romance bookstore that happens to be the only one of its kind in the United States, I know exactly where I am, not least because there is a Victorian sofa a few feet off the entrance.
“We are women moving through the world so this store is set up for women moving through the world,” said Leah Koch.
She’s talking about the feminine space she and her sister, Bea, created exactly four years ago when they opened the store. Born from their mutual love of romance novels growing up, they took their idea to Kickstarter, where they raised $90,000 to open a store. But the store has been changing since day one.
“Literally, the first day we opened someone asked where the poetry section was,” she said. So they added a poetry section. Later, kids asked where their section was, so they added a kids section.
The Ripped Bodice quietly celebrated its fourth anniversary on Sunday, March, 8. The first one hundred customers received a goodie bag filled with, what else? Romance novels.
The store’s charm isn’t only in its romance. The store has become a haven for people who identify as women wanting to work, read, or write.
“A lot of people tell me they can let out a breath [here],” Koch said. She continued, “Most public spaces are for everyone. We’re not that. It’s a very uniquely female space.”
In 2018, the sisters inked a deal with Sony Entertainment to produce romance novels for television adaptations. Most recently they sold a project to adapt “Forbidden,” a black American western by Beverly Jenkins.
“She was top of our list in terms of what we want to do,” Koch said. “I’m so excited about it.”
“Romance novels are the genre of hope,” Koch said. “They can deal with a lot of weighty subjects but they’re always going to be optimistic.”
As for me, I’ll definitely be back to take a breather on their red velvet couch.