Six years ago, an effort to turn a declining independent bookstore in Downtown Ithaca into a community-owned cooperative saved Buffalo Street Books, and now the store’s executive board has called an emergency meeting to decide what’s next.
In an e-mail to the bookstore co-op’s owners, the board says “Buffalo Street Books has remained an amazing literary hub for Ithaca” over the last six years since more than 700 people bought $250 shares in the bookstore, but, “unfortunately, that community spirit did not translate into making the store profitable.”
“Though we have cut the yearly losses, the store continues to lose money every single year,” they say. “Through cost-cutting measures, loans, ownership drives, and dedicated and creative management, we have continued to keep the store functioning. That is no longer possible.”
Among other things, the board says the idea of holding periodic fundraising campaigns and member drives, as suggested by former store employee Bob Proehl six years ago, “did not happen with any regularity.”
The store has continued to accept new owners, and Mayor Svante Myrick became a co-op owner last fall. In the meantime, the store continues to host valuable events, including Harry Potter release parties and local-author book signings.
“If we are to survive, we need to do two things,” said the Buffalo Street Books executive board in the e-mail to owners. “First, we need to raise money, quickly. Second, we need to consider the steps we can take to make the store sustainable. Those steps will involve asking owners to be more directly involved in the store.”
The emergency owners meeting, at which all interested community members are welcome, is at 7pm on Thursday, October 12th in the BSB store in the Dewitt Mall at 215 North Cayuga Street. (The bookstore’s main entrance is on the Buffalo Street side of the building, next to GreenStar Oasis.)
Disclaimer: The author is one of the 700-some member-owners of Buffalo Street Books, having purchased a “share” of the bookstore.