by Marleigh Green.

I sat down with Leah Koch, one of the two owners of The Ripped Bodice bookstore, an independent brick-and-mortar bookstore that is proudly Woman and Queer-Owned. 

Sisters and owners Leah and Bea Koch opened TRB in Los Angeles, CA on March 4, 2016 following a successful Kickstarter campaign to bring their dream of a romance-only bookstore to life.

The Ripped Bodice features a vast and diverse selection of romance fiction. In addition to books, the store has a wide selection of gift items with a focus on supporting independent, woman-owned businesses.

Q: You raised money for The Ripped Bodice via Kickstarter. What was it like to start your business using crowdfunding?

Leah: It was stressful, but it was also amazing, in that you’re able to bypass traditional funding models and go straight to who will be your eventual customer base. I say it’s stressful because as opposed to opening a business and having that be the first time that people interact with it, it was a theoretical business and the whole internet gets to have an opinion on it before it even exists. In general, I’m a big proponent of crowdfunding because it opens up access to people who need investment but aren’t able to reach investors. 

Q: What initially got you and your sister interested in reading romance? 

Leah: It’s mainly luck. We were big readers and grew up in a house that really emphasized reading. However, our mom wasn’t a romance reader; nobody in our family was. But we had bookstores. We used to go as a family every couple of weeks, and when we were old enough to be set loose, my older sister was the one who sort of wandered into the romance section after searching for historical fiction. She got totally hooked, and I had the more traditional experience of her sharing them with me or, more likely, me stealing them from her. 

Q: I love that your parents emphasized the importance of reading. Did it matter to them that you both got into romance?

Leah: Luckily our parents had no issue with what we wanted to read, as long as we were reading. Romance was really accessible, we could buy them for 25 cents at garage sales so we totally devoured them. As an adolescent, I was drawn to the focus the books had on people’s inner emotional lives. They’re mainly about ordinary people, and I think when you’re a teenager and becoming an adult is so insane and terrifying, reading these books made us feel like our lives would be important. We just never looked back!

Q: Can you remember the first romance book you read that made you really passionate about the genre?

Leah: I don’t remember the actual first one ever, but the first one I have strong memories of is Nora Roberts’s Bride Quartet. I remember it being one of the first really formative series that stuck out to me. I loved that the characters continued in other books and I still reread it all of the time. It was based on a really utopian idea of living in a commune with your childhood friends and featured really strong female friendships at the center. Each book is a romance but all of them are such important parts of each other’s lives. I loved the payoff of getting to the final book and the characters getting their happy endings. It holds up pretty well. 

Q: Are you a writer yourself or just a book enthusiast?

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