Books and Bottles: How Eleanor’s Norfolk is Shaping the Community

Eleanors Norfolk, a feminist bookstore a few minutes away from ODU.
Eleanor’s Norfolk, a feminist bookstore a few minutes away from ODU.
Maria Toombs

Just a few minutes away from ODU, on the corner where Colley Avenue meets Baldwin Avenue, is Eleanor’s Norfolk, a feminist bookstore. The yellow building that holds it was once a house; now repurposed, it holds the store at ground level and Fair Grounds Coffee Cafe on the second.


Eleanor’s Norfolk has been open since 2021 and incorporates themes of intersectionality and feminism, with the aim of “creating a space where people could locally gather, learn, and grow together.”


“There were a lot of people having individual conversations and not a lot of people coming together where there was a clear bridge of thought and a clear bridge of issues,” explained staff member Ren Johnson regarding the time after the George Floyd protests of 2020. 


As you walk up the shattered tile mosaic steps to Eleanor’s, you are greeted with the personal care and period pantry that sits next to the entrance. The pantry is open 24/7 and is stocked with free feminine products, hygiene care, and diapers. It is a “take what you need, give what you can” station that supports the community. 


Johnson said that when community members are not filling the pantry, the members of staff “will personally go out and stock it [themselves] for people who are houseless or are in need.” 


Once inside the building, there is a hallway filled with local artists’ for-sale work. From macramé plant hangers to paintings, these works hang opposite the floating shelf of used books for sale. 


Fanzines take up a small section of the store. Some are for free, while others are for sale. 


Every inch of Eleanor’s is purposeful and educational. The display tables throughout the store have a lot more to them than what may meet the eye. In February, there was a table dedicated to black authors, voices, and stories. Slingshot organizers, a type of planner manufactured by an independent business, are also for sale. On any given day, unique adult coloring books, postcards, posters, stickers, and journals can be found throughout the store and on these tables. 


Short stories are on the walls, with some works preaching body positivity while others discuss disabilities. Next to this is a large puzzle station. 


When it comes to the bookshelves, the selection is carefully curated and grouped together. 


“We try to focus on marginalized and oppressed peoples,” said Johnson. “We focus a lot on black authors, queer people, indigenous people, and just anybody who has some wisdom to share.”


The members of staff sort through new books and content that comes out, marking the ones that stand out to them, before selecting the final titles to be showcased.


Young adult, contemporary fiction, history, and biographies are just some of the sections that Eleanor’s has to offer. Within these genres, there are subgenres displayed such as queer memoirs, women’s liberation, and an “Unfuck Your Perspective” section stocked with books that discuss topics such as immigration and class solidarity. 


There is also a children’s book section featuring books like “May Your Life Be Deliciosa” by Michael Genhart and “Ho’onani Hula Warrior” by Heather Gale. Right next to the children’s section is a reading cubby filled with fairy lights and pillows for children to cozy up and get lost in the world of literature. 


My personal favorite section is the ‘Blind Date With A Book’ section. Books are wrapped in brown paper and grouped on shelves based on whether they are nonfiction or fiction. From there, customers can read description cards that have been placed on each book that give insight into what the book is about. All of the secret titles are marked down 20% from the retail price. 


Eleanor’s does an amazing job at showcasing the community as well as involving them. There are signs next to books written by local authors and through monthly book clubs. The clubs are broken up into three categories: intersectional feminism, radical studies, and speculative fiction. Based on which book club you join, there is an assigned book that matches the category. 


Wine, beer, syrups, and seltzers are all sold at Eleanor’s, along with home decor and art in a section divided from the books. Thanks to the remaining house features, this part of the store in particular has an antique, homey atmosphere created by a large, white fireplace adjacent to two yellow armchairs. 


The staff at Eleanor’s Norfolk ensures that all attendees are in a welcoming environment. Johnson said that they “love all of the different people that come through because there are so many different backgrounds that you get to hear from, and there’s so many different ideas and ways of life that you might not have otherwise interacted with.”


Regardless of whether you’re interested in reading, writing, and/or learning about intersectionality, there is something for everyone at Eleanor’s.

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About the Contributors
Reagan Williams
Reagan Williams, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor
Reagan Williams is the Arts and Entertainment assistant for the Mace and Crown. She is double majoring in Creative Writing and World Cultural Studies with a minor in Japanese. Reagan is passionate about traveling, literature, and cinema. She is excited to write and review the artistic events around ODU and Norfolk.
Maria Toombs
Maria Toombs, Photo Editor
Maria is the Photo Editor for the Mace & Crown starting Spring 2024. She plans to take her knowledge of photography and journalism in hopes of a career in photojournalism with the Washington Post or BuzzFeed Network. She mainly shoots portraits and sports games, but also loves being in the mix of entertainment-style photography.

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