BY RODNEY BROWN
Mood Makers Books (MMB) is an independent African American bookstore with a focus on books, gifts, and art.
According to the store’s owner Curtis Rivers, along with his wife Marie, they wanted to create a bookstore that went beyond your usual formula bookstores to a store that would make people feel welcome, without saying the words.
“The decor and atmosphere says welcome,” Rivers said. “We wanted it to be an intricate part of the community, where the community can come in and be a part of the store and we can be a support to the community, itself. That is when we added many workshops that are based on various fields of art,” he said. “We became a community bookstore, a community place.”
A native of Nashville, Tennessee, Rivers graduated from Tennessee State University with a bachelor of arts degree in Speech and Drama, before moving to Rochester in 1969 to work for Kodak.
“I performed in my first play, when I was in the first grade,” Rivers said. “I was brought up in the church and churches in those days hosted Tea events to raise money. The Tea event also featured a talent program. I used to say to people, I was on the Tea Circuit, because every Sunday I would go to several different churches and recite poems.”
When Mood Makers Books opened its doors for the first time it started as an art gallery to support his brother, who was an artist.
The bookstore became his outlet in Rochester to show his paintings, because he lived in Nashville.
“Then people started coming in asking for books and cards for kids and that kind of stuff,” Rivers said. “So, we built a shelf and started adding some books and cards. Shortly after, we decided that we needed to combine a bookstore and art gallery together. So it begins, Mood Makers Books and Art Gallery.
Since Amazon’s debut, a lot of independent bookstores has gone by the wayside. “Mood Makers Books will still be here but we’re focusing also more on theater,” Rivers said.
Many playwrights in the city were rarely given the opportunity to showcase or publish their work.
The infinite lock-out of local playwrights by established theaters compelled Rivers in 2006, to create MMB Theater 1.
MMB 1, did their first show in 2008, and dubbed the event, Sankofa Festival. It affords local playwrights a venue, to show their work and develop.
Rivers continued his quest to develop opportunities for local playwrights and producers in the creation of' The Bronze Collective' in 2014.
Along with two other colleagues, The Bronze Collective was established, to bring together the many African American theater companies.
“There’s a considerable number of Black theater companies in Rochester,” Rivers said. “However, nobody knows what anyone was doing. So, we assembled all the various black producers in Rochester. That’s about 13 African American theaters companies. We wanted to bring these people together at least once a year to showcase their work,” he points out. “If the major theater companies don’t let us in, we got to do our own thing.”
In 2018, Rivers will again present three show stopping events at the MuCCC Theater, a Multi-Use Community Cultural Center.
The events include, The Bronze Collective in February of 2018. In May of 2018, Rivers will be performing his personal work. And in the last week of August and the beginning week of September of 2018 is the Sankofa Festival.
“The MUCCC is a unique theater because it affords artist, who had not been given the opportunity to be in some of the other theaters, whether they are black, white, or whatever,” Rivers points out. “And it is a completely volunteer organization. So, we all work hard to make the MUCCC, a success. Because, if the MUCCC is a success, we’re a success.” Mood Makers Books is located at 274 north Goodman Street, Rochester, NY 14607. For more information visit: moodmakersbooks.com