Well-Read

From cutting hair to inspiring hispanic readership, Rueben Martinez's novel idea is a story for all ages.
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the April 2005 issue of . Subscribe »

Vital Stats: Rueben Martinez, 65, Libreria Martinez Books & Art Gallery

Company: Spanish-language bookstores in Lynwood and Santa Ana, California

2005 projected sale: $2.25 million

Shear Joy: Martinez loved that customers were interested in the books in his Santa Ana barbershop and gladly lent them out. As his collection grew from two to 200 volumes, Martinez opened a bookstore inside the barbershop in 1993, carrying mostly Spanish-language books and the translated classics of Tolstoy and Dostoevski.

Book Smarts: In 1999, Martinez changed locations to focus exclusively on his bookstore. His mission is to ignite a passion for reading in others: "The Latino population is growing so fast, our community needs to read, to digest more words."

Word-of-Mouth: His literary involvement grew with speaking engagements at conventions in both the United States and Mexico, a seat on the board of directors of Críticas and a live program called El Club de Libritos on Univision. He is also co-founder of the Latino Book & Family Festival, an event promoting literacy, culture and education. In September 2004, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, a private grant-making institution, awarded his activism with a $500,000 grant.

Spreading the Wealth: Martinez opened the Lynwood store in 2003 and plans to expand to 25 bookstores by 2012. He hopes to increase enthusiasm for literacy in cities with large Hispanic populations by hosting popular guest readers, author signings and showcasing Hispanic art in his stores. "Are we going to get rich?" asks Martinez. "Absolutely not, but we are already rich in the heart."

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