DENVER – The Tattered Cover Book Store announced today that it has changed hands through a private sale. The new ownership team is led by two Denver natives with Ivy-League credentials and international business experience.
The new CEO, Kwame Spearman, is also the largest individual shareholder, making the Tattered Cover now the largest black-owned bookstore in the United States, the book store confirmed on Twitter.
The Tattered Cover shared the news, and introduced the team in a press release this morning:
Denver natives, high-school rivals and long-time friends Kwame Spearman and David Back, founding partners of Bended Page, LLC, lead a diverse group of Colorado-based investors and national bookselling and publishing experts that purchased the 49-year-old business. Tattered Cover includes four locations in and around Denver and a fifth planned for Westminster, Colorado. Prior to the sale, Len Vlahos and Kristen Gilligan, book industry veterans, owned and managed the bookstores which they purchased from long-time owner Joyce Meskis in 2015.
Spearman and Back (respectively Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Bended Page) grew up visiting and appreciating the Tattered Cover. At 15, Back's first formal job was working as a cashier at the bookstore’s Cherry Creek location, and Spearman’s favorite restaurant was the Fourth Story, housed in the bookstore’s flagship location from 1995-2006.
The new ownership team has extensive professional experience in business management consulting and start-ups. Spearman worked internationally across various industries, with a focus on retail and consumer companies and organization design and talent management, while Back visioned and grew the first rental car company in India.
“The Tattered Cover, and all it embodies for us as Denver natives – reading, learning, the independent spirit, buying local, and most importantly community and connection – are the ingredients that drew us to this endeavor,” said Spearman. “As we approach Tattered Cover’s 50th Anniversary we are honored and excited to invest in this important community treasure and ensure it remains a piece of the Colorado experience for generations to come.”
Back continued, “We see Tattered Cover as more than a bookstore. It’s a place where memories are made and where everyone should feel at home. Our vision includes growing opportunities for community engagement, connection, and conversations. We see this happening within our walls, but also more directly in the community, and we are eager to bring this vision to reality over the coming months.”
Kwame Spearman, CEO
Kwame was born in Denver, Colorado. He graduated from East High School. He then graduated from Columbia University with honors and degrees in History, Political Science, and African American Studies. He also served as President of his Class. After Columbia, Kwame attended Yale Law School and Harvard Business School. At Harvard, Kwame worked with renowned scholar Dr. Henry "Skip" Louis Gates.
Kwame began his professional career as a consultant at Bain & Company. He worked across numerous industries, with a focus on Retail and Consumer companies. Moreover, Kwame focused on Organization Design and Talent Management. After his time at Bain, Kwame worked with the Founders of B.GOOD Restaurants, headquartered in Boston. Together, the team opened over 30 locations in 7 different states and four countries. Next, Kwame joined Knotel, based in New York City. Knotel is the world's leading flexible office provider for companies. Kwame serves as their Head of Expansion & Landlord Partnerships. In his role, Kwame led Knotel to open in 15 markets globally. Kwame's favorite restaurant in High School was Tattered Cover's Fourth Story.
David Back, Chairman of the Board
David was born in Denver, Colorado. He attended Graland and George Washington High School. He then graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania and cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he had teaching fellowships on the history and future of globalization under Niall Ferguson and under Larry Summers and Lant Pritchett. David received a full scholarship to pursue an MBA at Cambridge University's Judge School of Business. He dropped out after one term when named donor Lady Barbara Judge invested in his startup Zoomcar, the first legally operating car rental company in India.
Zoomcar launched in February 2013, with 7 cars in Bangalore. By the time David left day-to-day management in mid-2015, it had grown to about 1,500 cars in 6 cities. The business continues to grow, and now has over 10,000 cars in more than 50 Indian cities. Zoomcar’s investors include Ford Motor Company, Mahindra & Mahindra, Sequoia Capital, and Larry Summers, as well as professors at Wharton and Harvard Law School.
David's first formal job was as a cashier at Tattered Cover's Cherry Creek store at age 15 (his first informal "job" was shoveling snow around the Observatory Park neighborhood with his older brother every winter starting when he was 10 years old).