A New Chapter in Wilmington Small Business
4 Dec 2023
Wilmington, DE, welcomed Huxley & Hiro, an independent book store that opened its doors on October 27, 2023, to an overwhelmingly positive reception.
“Every day, we hear from local people how happy they are that Wilmington has an independent bookstore again,” said Huxley & Hiro’s owner, Dr. Claire van den Broek. With a broad collection of “classics, bestsellers, genres such as fantasy, Sci-Fi, and romance,” Huxley & Hiro has something for everyone.
“Everyone” means everyone: Wilmington shoppers' passion for “[our] social justice and LGBTQ+ sections has bolstered our faith in humanity,” said van den Broek.
They also serve customers searching for unique gifts, local postcards, and Wilmington art and souvenirs. Huxley & Hiro stocks products from small businesses like Wilmington's Baisun Candle Co., as well as Cork & Charm, which donates the proceeds from the sale of their earrings to charity. They also host craft workshops and have a comedy show coming up, as well as history talks and book clubs.
Open Pages, Open Doors
Huxley & Hiro never struggled to spread the word: “most local publications, radio stations, and other news outlets reached out to us, rather than vice versa.” Dr. Claire van den Broek and founding partner Professor Ryan Eanes are determined to reciprocate the warm welcome.
Less than two months after their ground opening, they have already begun partnerships with the Junior League of Wilmington to make period products available to financially struggling women at no cost. In 2024, the store will launch an 8-week certification program with Delaware Futures to “give at-risk teenagers an opportunity to become advocates for literature,” said van den Broek.
Partnerships with Delaware College of Art and Design for art shows and open mic nights are on the horizon, and the store donates to local animal shelters and the Brandywine Zoo. The owners adore animals; they named the store after Claire’s Maine Coon, Huxley, and Ryan’s shiba inu Hiro.
“We fell in love with the City when we visited together in 2016. Ryan moved here soon after, and when we saw that the Ninth Street Bookstore closed, we got the idea of opening a new bookstore that would function as a public benefit corporation that serves the community.”
This pair of longtime residents saw a need for a diverse and progressive third space in an environment they loved, which combines the resources of a large city and the close-knit community feeling of a smaller town.
Huxley & Hiro praise Wilmington’s “commitment to enhancing its urban spaces and fostering a vibrant, welcoming community for everyone.” Dr. van den Broek had special thanks for John Kurth, their “personal hero in terms of helping us find the right people” and urged other local entrepreneurs to “immediately connect with Downtown Visions, especially Lani Schweiger, if they are opening a business in the city.”
The Future of Small Business in Wilmington, Delaware
“Wilmington is far more supportive of small businesses, and Mayor Purzycki has made a tremendous difference.” Dr. van den Broek cited low crime, supportive local police, and enthusiastic funding for small businesses as contributions to Huxley & Hiro’s success.
Huxley & Hiro’s owners also encourage fellow business owners to blaze their own trails. “Don’t fall victim to the pre-existing assumptions about Wilmington…people told us Sunday was not worth opening…yet Sunday is one of our best days. We hope other entrepreneurs will follow us and open on Sundays.”
Wilmington, DE, welcomes small businesses led by passionate members of the community like Claire and Ryan. Contact the Office of Economic Development for more information on becoming another local success story.