Hakim Hopkins walked into the second-floor space of his book store, Black and Nobel, Monday afternoon and said he almost couldn't believe what he was seeing.
The store was buzzing, mostly with young men and women who had gathered to plan strategies for pushing the GoFundMe campaign they had helped initiate to keep the book store, at the hectic corner of Broad and Erie, from closing.
"It took me saying I was going to have to close the store to see this many people in here," Hopkins said Monday.
It was the young people who frequently gather at Black and Nobel who came up with the idea of launching the Go Fund Me Page that launched June 22.
The campaign, which he said is titled "Save Black and Nobel: It's more than a bookstore," is seeking to raise $250,000. Hopkins started his business from a single vendor's table 15 years ago before opening the store in 2009.
Some of the money will go to paying overdue rent to his landlord. Hopkins declined to say precisely how much he owes.
"I don't own this building. We want to know if we can get people behind us to get our own building," he said. But that wouldn't mean giving up the original flagship store he said. "I want to create a chain of book stores that will also be like this one, community hubs."
Some of the money will also go to buy a tour bus "to facilitate face-to-face community outreach in neighborhoods and schools across the nation," the Go Fund Me page said.
As of 6 p.m. Monday, the campaign had raised $4,025 from 43 donors in four days.
One donor, New Lane Entertainment, a music label that represents singer PnB Rock, or Rakim Allen, had donated $2,000 late Sunday night. Hopkins, 45, said he had just seen Rock on the BET Awards Sunday evening.
The bookstore owner said he used to write letters and send books to the singer when Rock was incarcerated after a drug-related arrest.
"His record label asked me to send him some books and give him some guidance to keep his head together while he was in jail," Hopkins said.
He also said his bookstore has helped to launch the careers of a number of Philadelphia-born artists such as Meek Mill and Bryshere Gray, or "Yazz the Greatest," most well-known now for his role as Hakeem Lyon on the television show , "Empire." The store has a regular Wednesday night Open Mic night.
And prominent Philadelphians, including Michael Coard, the lawyer, and Marc Lamont Hill, the college professor and frequent television commentator had donated $500 each.
While there is an active community of musicians, hip-hop artists and rappers who come to the open mic nights, Hopkins said he wasn't going to use the tour bus for entertainment only. He said he wants to spread the word about the importance of education, especially self-education, and to help young people start technology businesses.
"Black and Nobel can also be Black and Mobile," Hopkins said. "I have countless youth who come through here. We're not raising funds just to keep these doors open. We want to go out and touch the rest of the world.
"We're expanding the brand. We want to do college tours and traveling and we need money to do that."
Hopkins had begun telling people in the community that after the book business started to decline in 2012. But most of the decline came in the last two years.
"And when they asked me why I was going to close, I'd look at them and ask them, 'When was the last time you bought a book.' " he said.
In calling Black and Nobel a community hub, he pointed out some of the young people in the store Monday.
"Smart people gather here," Hopkins said. One of them, Jabriel Steward, an 18-year-old recent graduate of Murell Dobbins Career and Technical Education High School, with a classmate won third-place in a contest for high-school inventors. Their idea, was a pillow that plays music to help you sleep, called Snooze Tunes. He said he won a four-year scholarship to Lincoln University.
Dee Jay the Singer, whose birth name is Daryl Walker, said he wanted to help Hopkins save the business because, "This bookstore saved my life."
"I used to be out there doing all kinds of things and got locked up a few times, but I started coming here and found out I had talent, said Walker, 25.