Last spring, Jennifer Morales and Tina Owen got married in Vancouver. This month, the life partners added another dimension to their relationship: a business partnership.
Morales and Owen purchased Broad Vocabulary, Milwaukee’s only feminist bookshop, from previous owners Molly Tennessen, Amy Daroszeski and Kelly Todd.
“We're very happy that Tina and Jennifer are the new broads,” says Tennessen. “Clearly, they are politically-minded ladies and are able to devote the time and energy to make Broad Vocabulary an even more successful bookstore.”
Tennessen says she and the other founders knew they would relinquish Broad Vocabulary at some point because the three of them have so many other endeavors. Todd is moving to Spain and Daroszeski is a full-time English teacher.
“I found it harder and harder to find the energy and motivation that the store really needed. For me, handing the store off to people who can actually be there is the most appropriate thing I personally can do,” says Daroszeski.
When Owen heard that Broad Vocabulary was for sale, she instantly called Morales.
“Within a few hours of getting the announcement that the store was for sale, we had a meeting with the founders scheduled,” says Morales.
Owen is the founder of and lead teacher at the Alliance School, a small, MPS high school serving students who have been bullied or harassed in other school settings. Morales is a school board member, writer and freelance editor (she is also a featured blogger for OnMilwaukee.com.) Both women say owning a bookstore is a natural fit.
“It's a really satisfying blend of two of our greatest passions -- words and politics -- and it builds on the many relationships we have with people in education, the arts, politics, the LGBT community, the social justice activist world, Tina's school, my editing business, our church, everywhere,” says Morales.
Broad Vocabulary offers a wide selection of books on women’s issues, education, the environment, politics, activism, religion, pop culture, arts, health and cooking. Also, the shop is a gathering place for socialization and activism. Several clubs meet at the bookshop regularly.
“It's a unique place that offers a much-needed focal point for the kind of deep community-building and political and social change that Milwaukee is starving for right now,” says Morales.
Owen and Morales, who have four biological children and a grown foster child, created a new children’s section with a window nook where kids can sit on cushions and peruse the expanded collection, which includes classic books like “Harry the Dirty Dog” to less mainstream reads like “One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dads.” Also, the shop now stocks more books for older kids.
“We want to make sure that elementary, middle and high-school aged people have access to literature and non-fiction books that counter stereotypes,” says Morales.
The new owners plan to feature more events, including in-store readings and music performances. They are in the process of creating improved gallery space for artists to show their work.
“It's a lot, but we're happy. I heard a quote recently from someone who said that she didn't want to live only the length of her life, but the width of it, too,” says Morales.
All of the women behind Broad Vocabulary credit Milwaukee for its ongoing support of independent businesses.
“Broad Vocabulary is a successful business that the community embraced the minute we arrived in Bay View,” says Daroszeski.
Morales says Milwaukee is unique in this way, especially compared to other cities. Three days after she and Owen bought the store, a group of teachers from North Dakota came in to buy materials because the last independent bookshop in Fargo recently closed.
“I want to give Milwaukee a lot of credit for being so fierce about shopping locally. When I go to other cities, I'm appalled at how few independent businesses there are. In Milwaukee, we like our locally owned, diverse, quirky businesses. We should be proud of that,” says Morales.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.