Bel Canto Books Opens New Storefront on Retro Row

By Mackenzie Ordonez

Jhoanna Belfer, the founder and owner of Bel Canto Books, delved into the roots of this unique bookstore’s journey from pop-ups to a forthcoming standalone storefront at 2106 E. Fourth Street. Belfer shared insights into the genesis of Bel Canto Books and the exciting new chapter unfolding for book lovers in Long Beach.

Bel Canto Books began in 2018 when Jhoanna Belfer initiated pop-up book clubs at various events like street fairs and the downtown Long Beach farmers market. “I started doing pop-ups and essentially hosting book clubs, bringing in a table full of books to sell,” Belfer explained. Over the course of 2018 to the summer of 2019, the endeavor steadily grew, gaining a dedicated audience.

Realizing the potential for a more expansive journey, Belfer took the plunge in the summer of 2019, quitting her job to explore the possibilities of a physical space. Fortuitously, she received a call from the Hangout, a popular creative collective space on Fourth Street, looking for someone to take over their bookstore space. Seizing the opportunity, Belfer moved Bel Canto Books into that space in November 2019.

The pandemic posed unexpected challenges, but the sense of community within creative collectives like KUBO LB, where Bel Canto Books found a home, allowed businesses to support each other through collaborative efforts, events, and motivation during tough times.

Belfer, a first-time entrepreneur, acknowledged the learning curve in managing a retail space independently. With a supportive team and guidance from the Fourth Street Business Association, Bel Canto Books navigated the intricacies of setting up operations.

Bel Canto Books stands out for its carefully curated selection, focusing on contemporary books by historically marginalized authors. Belfer, a Filipina American, has a robust collection of Filipino, AAPI, and BIPOC authors. She emphasized the importance of sharing great stories and the excitement of reading with the community.

With plans for a soft launch in mid-March, Bel Canto Books anticipates opening its doors for a few days initially to test systems before settling into regular soft opening hours of Thursday through Sunday, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. The grand opening party is planned for Independent Bookstore Day on April 27.

Jhoanna Belfer shared an exciting event on the horizon – the AAPI Books Festival scheduled for May 4. While the lineup of big authors remains under wraps, anticipation is building for this celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander literature.

As Bel Canto Books Retro Row prepares to enchant book enthusiasts, Jhoanna Belfer radiates enthusiasm for the journey ahead. The spirit of Bel Canto Books, anchored in community, diverse stories, and a love for Long Beach, promises an enriching experience for book lovers on Retro Row.

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