— Working Girl Diaries

What it's like to run an all-romance bookstore in Los Angeles


Meet Bea and Leah Koch, sisters and owners of The Ripped Bodice, the only exclusively romance brick-and-mortar bookstore in the ENTIRE United States. Based in the Culver City neighborhood of Los Angeles (though they also have an online store!), Bea and Leah opened up this dream bookstore in 2016 after raising more than $90,000 in funds on Kickstarter. Now, their thriving and powerfully feminist shop is home to a bookclub, constant events with incredible authors from the romance genre, and packed book signings.

Read on for Bea and Leah’s respective diaries. You’ll see how they work together as sisters (with help from their ever present dog, Fitz), deal with condescending “customers” (mansplainers), and create an empowering, beloved space for book lovers.

Bea’s Diary

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Day 1

5:30 a.m.: It’s International Women’s Day, motherfuckers. I am an early riser. It just happens naturally, so now I don’t fight it and go to bed very early so I can make use of these early morning hours. I spend some time snuggling with my dog Fitzwilliam, my life partner, and then I make coffee and we head out on a walk.

6:30 a.m.: Back home and catching up on the news of the day. I am a political news junkie, so I check the headlines on New York Times, Washington Post, Politico, and the Tribune, and listen to the new episode of Pod Save America.

7:30 a.m.: Leah is leaving for her first vacation since we opened the store. She comes to say goodbye to me and Fitz, and reminds me that I will need to post a sign explaining our decision about the women’s strike. After much agonizing (and checking in with our sounding board, i.e., our sister-in-law) we’ve decided to close early at 3 p.m.. We want to honor the idea of the day, but also, we don’t work for men…it was a tough call.

9:30 a.m.: I pick up coffee on the way into work, where Fitz receives his first treat of the day (a puppucinno) and some adulation. Walking around with this dog is like walking around with a rockstar. People literally point and stare in excitement.

10:40 a.m.: I deal with email first thing. Nothing too urgent, so I check our social media channels. I have a very complicated relationship with social media. I take things very personally. So I try and limit my time spent on them, especially  Twitter.

11:30 a.m.: I do enjoy Instagram, and spend a lot of time staging our pictures for the store’s Instagram. I spend even more time on Fitzwilliam’s personal Instagram (@fitzwilliamwaffles). Honestly, dogs bring out the best in people, so his Instagram page is sheer joy and positivity. I love that. Fitz also has a very specific voice, a kind of wry bemusement at the life he’s found himself leading.

12 p.m.: It’s a pretty quiet day around here so I pull out my manuscript. Oy. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl, but I’ve since learned that that is similar to saying, “oh I’ve always wanted to be an astronaut.” IT’S FUCKING HARD. (You can always tell me and Leah apart because I swear like something worse than a sailor). I start on a scene and get completely distracted by a small research question about French cooking in the 19th century, and lose an hour to that.

3 p.m.: I remember at the last second (there’s a theme here, it’s that I have the memory of a goldfish) to hang the sign about closing, Tweet to remind people, and head out for the day.

3:30 p.m.: First stop is the dog park. It’s crazy dusty today and very crowded, so we just hang out for a few minutes. Fitz isn’t one for socializing, but he does enjoy running around a tree several times. We leave when he tries to pee on a pug.

5 p.m.: What do I do with a rare afternoon off? Give my dog a bath. I know how to party.

6 p.m.: I check in with Leah again, and we go over a few emails that need tending to. We also discuss the logistics of an enormous shipment of books on its way for a conference.

7 p.m.: I’m currently reading a series sent to me by Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches Trashy Books, The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman.  (Also, since Sarah is a total idol of mine, it is literally insane to me that we have a relationship now. I have to control the fangirl crazy when I talk to her, but it bubbles up. There are so many smart, talented women in this industry and I just admire Sarah so much for the community she has built.) It has so many things I love: smart heroines, magic, history. I am enjoying it thoroughly.

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