Meet Gabrielle and Danielle Davenport, two sisters who merged their love for literature and the culinary arts to establish BEM | books & more, an online bookstore focusing on food and the African diaspora. We recently met with Gabrielle and Danielle to discuss BEM’s story, its unique variety of offerings, and how Downtown Brooklyn has played a pivotal role in the success of their business. We also got a glimpse into what’s next for BEM — read our conversation below to discover what they have in store (both literally and figuratively!).

DBP: Hi, Danielle and Gabrielle! Thanks for taking the time to discuss the exciting things happening at BEM. Tell us a little about yourselves, where you grew up, and how you both acquired a love for books and food.

Gabrielle: Thanks so much for having us! Our love of books and food really comes from our family. We have so many memories of cooking with our mom and aunts, and of food being a source of connection and joy. Our name, BEM, actually comes from a play on our grandmothers’ initials. And we’ve always seen books and bookstores as providing a kind of refuge; so we combined our love for indie bookstores and the culinary arts into a vision for BEM that connects to our careers in arts and culture in exciting ways.

Danielle: I’ve lived in New York for over 20 years, and in Brooklyn for the majority of them. One of the things that’s very important to our vision for BEM is that it’s diasporic. We’re deeply interested in the way that food connects Black cultures worldwide, and also in the diversity across our cultures. In some ways, the internet allows us to be everywhere, but in terms of choosing the one place where we put down roots to open our doors – before the end of the year if all goes according to plan – it’s hard to imagine a better place than our home borough of Brooklyn, with its incredible richness of Black and food and literary culture. We’re creating a space at that intersection.

DBP: Why Downtown Brooklyn?

Danielle: This neighborhood is a nexus for culture, and we truly believe there is no better place for us to join the art of food with literature. Downtown Brooklyn is rich with opportunity, which we’re so grateful to have been able to find and take advantage of.

Gabrielle: BEM started out online-only in January of 2021, but thanks to partnerships and collaborations with cultural organizations from around the neighborhood, we’ve been able to amplify our presence. Our earliest pop-ups were with Bed-Vyne in Bed-Stuy and the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) in East Harlem for their African/American: Making the Nation’s Table exhibition, but toward the end of 2022, we had the opportunity to operate a 6-week holiday pop-up shop at BRIC House. Especially given my longtime relationship there as a programmer and producer, it felt like such a homecoming, and led to a longer-term pop-up in their cafe space. Being located in and around Downtown Brooklyn made so many connections and collaborations possible from our fellow booksellers at the Center for Fiction and Greenlight to the ease with which authors and customers we connected with at events and pop-ups all over the city could get to us.

Danielle: Being right across the street from Peaches Prime, too – the owners of the Peaches family of restaurants, Craig and Ben were chefs at the first restaurant I worked in, years ago, so collaborating with them as neighbors was such a lovely full-circle moment. Aside from being this incredible nexus of arts and culture, Downtown Brooklyn is full of full-circle moments and happenstance that’s fed our business in beautiful ways.

DBP: What’s it like working as sisters?

Danielle: Sisterhood is everything, and BEM at its core is really about the spirit of family – our own, and all the individual and family legacies that create the broader cultural currents we’re here to celebrate and explore. Food is love, food is generational knowledge; it’s legacy. Of course there are challenges, but BEM is truly a natural extension of what we already love, so sisterhood being at the heart of it all only strengthens our efforts.

DBP: What is the breadth of offerings available at BEM?

Gabrielle: Even though the books in our collection are all written by Black authors and are all centered around food, we found that this niche has tons of variety. Of course we sell cookbooks, but we also carry poetry, fiction, nonfiction – including some beautiful memoirs – picture books and young adult literature, art books – each book connects in some way to ideas about cooking, food, and gastronomy as it relates to Black culture. Food is everything and everywhere, and that’s reflected in the diversity of our catalog.

DBP: What can we look forward to from BEM?

Danielle: After three years of pop-ups and events and selling online, we were thrilled to have our community rally around our recent Kickstarter campaign in such an incredible way. We’re now laser-focused on opening a brick-and-mortar home for BEM here in Brooklyn this year. 

Gabrielle: And speaking of our offerings, we’ll be opening a space that of course has all our books and merch and kitchen and table products from Black-owned brands, but also a cafe and wine bar, archive and reading room, and a demo kitchen that will allow us to host all kinds of dinners and chef residencies and cooking classes. We’re really excited to bring our community a beautiful space dedicated to the intersection of all things Black and culinary and literary.

DBP: Lots to look forward to! We’re excited to see all your goals come to fruition. Where can people find you?

Danielle: People can keep up-to-date with everything we’re doing by following us on Instagram for regular updates and subscribing to our newsletter.

Gabrielle: And don’t forget to visit for our latest offerings – we’re adding new books to the site every week!

Gabrielle and Danielle Davenport’s journey with BEM | books & more illuminates a profound dedication to the merging of literature, food, and Black culture. Through their online platform and strategic partnerships in Downtown Brooklyn, they’ve forged a unique space — both online and physically — that celebrates the culinary narratives of the African diaspora. We can’t wait to witness all their future successes!