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People’s Co-op Bookstore launches fundraising drive

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Binky, the Co-op's traffic-stopping doorstop. Made for us by Slightly Bent Bob Ellenton.

Binky, the Co-op’s traf­fic-stop­ping doorstop. Made for us by Slight­ly Bent Bob Ellen­ton.

As friends, asso­ciates, and the occa­sion­al read­er of my blog series here know, I’ve become deeply involved in the affairs of the People’s Co-op Book­store on Com­mer­cial Dri­ve in Van­cou­ver.

Today, the store is at a cross­roads. Hav­ing oper­at­ed for two years with­out a nick­el in its pock­et, the People’s Co-op des­per­ate­ly needs some cash, and has launched a dri­ve to raise about $30,000, to pay off some old debt, bring some new books into the store, and spruce the place up a bit.

About a third of that is need­ed to pay off some debts to sup­pli­ers — some­thing that’s pre­vent­ing the Co-op from get­ting books in from a few key sup­pli­ers. This is mon­ey the store needs RIGHT AWAY, before the end of June.

Anoth­er third or so is need­ed to bring more titles into the store. While the Co-op’s addi­tion of used books has giv­en it a much deep­er inven­to­ry, the short­age of cheese in the cup­board makes it very, very hard to bring in the new titles that are a bookshop’s bread and but­ter. The book­store needs that inven­to­ry to sur­vive: it has to sell a cer­tain num­ber of books to pay rent and salaries, and it can’t sell what it can’t buy.

The Co-op also needs to put a lit­tle mon­ey into ren­o­va­tions, fix­tures, and a com­put­er / web­site upgrade.

Since Co-op mem­bers reject­ed a plan to shut­ter the shop in March 2010, huge changes have been intro­duced. The reforms — includ­ing embrac­ing the “Powell’s mod­el”, adding used books to the inven­to­ry — have reduced the store’s oper­at­ing deficit from about $40k a year, to around $10k — less than $1,000 a month. That’s good, but the num­ber has to be zero. And the only way to accom­plish that goal is to increase the num­ber of books we are sell­ing: not by much, maybe a few thou­sand bucks’ worth per month. But we can’t do that unless we can buy the books in the first place.

The store’s staff, vol­un­teers, and board mem­bers have reached the lim­its of what they can accom­plish with­out the ben­e­fit of a bud­get to work with. The time has come to give the People’s Co-op Book­store and its work­ers the oper­at­ing cap­i­tal they need to work with.

How can you help?

1. By join­ing the Co-op. It costs $25 to become a share­hold­er in the Co-op, and that gets you a 10 per­cent dis­count for one year. If you’re already a Co-op mem­ber, by renew­ing your mem­ber­ship.

2. By mak­ing a dona­tion of any size to the Co-op. A $250 dona­tion earns you a 10 per­cent life­time dis­count at the Co-op — and gets us sub­stan­tial­ly clos­er to our fundrais­ing goals.

3. By mak­ing the People’s Co-op Book­store (1391 Com­mer­cial Dri­ve, three blocks north of 1st Avenue) one of the reg­u­lar stops on your shop­ping / fla­neur­ing expe­di­tions. If you haven’t vis­it­ed the Co-op in a while, you’ll be amazed by the trans­for­ma­tion wrought over the last few years.

4. By donat­ing your time & skills to the Co-op. Through­out its 69-year his­to­ry the People’s Co-op has relied on vol­un­teers to help out at events, to sort used book dona­tions, and to help out in the store & even work occa­sion­al store shifts. That prob­a­bly won’t ever change.

5. By donat­ing your used books. Dona­tions have allowed the store to build up its stock — store inven­to­ry is prob­a­bly deep­er than it has been at any time in its his­to­ry — and used book sales are now pay­ing around half the rent.

6. By shar­ing this appeal with your friends.

(In late March, a Mys­tery Donor stepped for­ward and pledged to match every $2 donat­ed with $1 of their own — so your $25 = $37.50, $100 = $150, $250 = $325, &c.)

From time to time through­out its his­to­ry, the People’s Co-op Book­store has had to turn to its mem­bers and sup­port­ers to see it through crises. It’s been a cou­ple of decades since the last appeal. This is one of those times. It’s been pret­ty clear to me, from my vol­un­teer­ing around & in the book­store, that there is an enor­mous reser­voir of sup­port for the Co-op. I hope we can turn some of that sup­port into dona­tions that are now need­ed to keep the our book­store open.

Since last fall’s Co-op AGM, a fundrais­ing com­mit­tee led by Bri­an Camp­bell has qui­et­ly raised more than $8k towards our goal. That’s a great start, but we’ve got a ways to go still. I hope you’ll be able to give some­thing to keep Vancouver’s — and sure­ly one of Canada’s? — old­est book­store going strong.

UPDATE: As of June 1, the Co-op has raised about one-third of the goal — the part it need­ed before June 30 to keep the doors open over sum­mer, the slow­est peri­od of the year — and is hir­ing a new man­ag­er. But the dona­tions and mem­ber­ships are slow­ing down, and the store still needs that next $10k to put some new books on the shelves for the fall. The People’s Co-op isn’t entire­ly out of the woods yet. Please drop in at the Co-op and join, renew, donate, browse, and maybe take your new dis­count for a spin.