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Meet La’Nae Robinson of Bliss Books & Wine

Today we’d like to introduce you to La’Nae Robinson. 

Hi La’Nae, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I’m La’Nae Robinson, co-founder of Bliss Books & Wine based out of Kansas City, MO. My relationship with my business partner is an interesting one and is about as special as our journey. I first met La’Nesha one cool autumn night in 1980not important. I have not quite figured out if that was a blissful moment or not, but at the time I was elated to have a little sister. That feeling fluctuates from day to day for the both of us; however, I can honestly say it’s been an awesome journey together. Though raised in the same home, we had extremely different levels of interest in books and reading. I arrived on Earth a book lover. I embraced my mother’s fascination with reading early, kept my nose constantly in a book, and burned a hole in my library card. La’Nesha, on the other hand, fought reading tooth and nail. It didn’t help that her big sister forced read-a-louds upon her and made her check out books from La’Nae’s Little Library. But that’s what older siblings do, right? Eventually, once unforced and left to her own devices, La’Nesha took the literature leap as well and became the biggest bookworm in the family. Go figure!

Fast forward several decades. We are both Team Books, our personal libraries are stocked, the kids are older and we have earned a little me time. Great! Let’s grab a glass of wine and get in a few chapters at…ummmm… how about…oh I know there’s… Wait a minute…

That’s the moment when greatness was born, dictated by pure frustration and necessity. Bliss Books & Wine was La’Nesha’s brainchild; conceptualized to fill a void. She desperately needed a place to go and decompress, have a glass of wine and finish reading a book. But that place did not exist. No matter where she looked, she had difficulty discovering a place for herself: a wife and a working mother of two who needed just an hour or so of silence, sipping, and relaxation. So, she decided to create her own; a place where one could bridge the gap between great social drinking and introverted reading. She found her bliss and wanted others to find theirs as well. This discovery was the basis for Bliss Books & Wine; founded in May 2019 by two sisters that just needed a break from the realities of the world. I came up with the name based solely on the concept. When she called me with the idea, I said it sounded like bliss.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
This has been… an interesting road. Winding. A little bumpy. A few potholes here and there, and lots of new traffic. But it’s been an interesting and adventurous ride. As a brand-new company, we were just finding our footing in the community when the pandemic hit. We’d hosted three pop-up events in the second half of 2019 and had just scheduled our fourth event for March 2020. Then the world came to a screeching halt. This part of our story is not unique, as everyone had to change course and find ways to stay afloat. We took those moments to look at the landscape before us, both the terrifying struggle of charting a new path in very chaotic territory and the exciting opportunity to be creative and expand our offerings. We could have easily fallen into the “woe is me” mindset. Instead, we chose to pivot during the pandemic and moved our entire operation online. We revamped our website, opened our online store, offered audiobooks and eBooks, and began hosting virtual paint & sips, writing workshops, and author events. 

We’ve been impressed with Bliss Books & Wine, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Bliss Books & Wine is an independently owned bookstore for wine enthusiasts and book lovers. We promote the reading culture by encouraging curious readers, endorsing local arts, spotlighting local authors and artists, and connecting the great pastimes of social drinking and introverted reading. We exist to build a community gathering place and to create experiences by bridging the gap between books and wine. 

We are most proud of the connections that we have established in the Kansas City area and across the country in just two short years. We’ve built a magnificent network of awesome individuals and we’re thankful for our work with all of our community partners to bring resources and meaningful programming to lovers of literature, wine, the arts, and amazing people. 

We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on luck and what role, if any, you feel it’s played for you?
We were lucky enough not to have signed a lease in the spring of 2020 like we were on course to do. That would have been devastating to us, and our finances, during that moment in time. We are definitely lucky to have such a phenomenal support system: our families, friends, mentors, business coaches, community resources, and the unmatched Bliss Community. They have played a huge part in keeping us motivated and focused, and they are always there to help us when we need it the most. I also believe that we hit the scene at the right time and place given the renewed popularity of independent bookstores and the considerable interest in black-owned bookstores and businesses during the civil unrest in the summer of 2020. Coupled with the circumstances around the pandemic and stay-at-home orders, we had an audience that was receptive to supporting our vision. I would say that we have been blessed more than anything. Beyond measure. 

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Image Credits

Hannah Banks Photography
Reach Out and Read Kansas City

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