Would it be feasible to have a cooperative bookstore in downtown Ypsilanti?


A few days ago, I posted something here about the City having shut down our local used bookstore, Cross Street Books. While acknowledging that there were certainly issues with the peculiar, little store, which has always been both painfully crowded and comically unsafe, I lamented the fact that, without them, our Ypsilanti would be without a bookstore. While a few in the community, like local librarian Ben Miller, came forward to suggest that we band together to help the owner bring his shop back up to code, others offered different solutions, the most interesting of which came from former Ypsilanti City Planner Richard Murphy, who suggested that we instead come together to open a cooperative bookstore.

“I appreciate the can-do spirit of Benjamin Miller here, but, like others, my own experience also makes me pessimistic that the aid would be accepted or effective, sadly,” said Murphy. “If you wanted to start a cooperative bookstore, though, and buy Cross Street Books’ stock (and maybe move it down the street to the much more habitable and currently vacant Cross Street Station space), I’d buy a member share.”

Then, making things a little more interesting, local landlord Stewart Beal joined the conversation, offering a long-term lease at what he described as favorable terms, should a group come together to make such a thing happen. “I would offer 206 W. Michigan in downtown Ypsilanti to such an endeavor for low long term rent,” said Beal. “It is 1,700sf on the 1st floor and 1,700sf in the basement. Just think of how many books you could fit in there!”

The first floor space, which, back in the 90’s, was home to Ypsilanti’s legendary Green Room, has been vacant for several years now, and it makes sense that Beal would want to get someone moved in. Of course Beal’s idea of “low long-term rent” may not be low enough to make such an endeavor a possibility. I think, however, that it’s probably at least worth looking into, assuming people like the idea. And, toward that end, it looks like there may already be a little traction. Just today, community activist and local coop advocate Lisa Bashert came forward to say that, if this were to happen, she’d not only buy a share, but work there. So, as of right now, we’ve already sold four shares, and have one person to work in the store. (Stewart, Murph and Lisa all said that they would buy membership shares, as would I.)

So, where does this leave us? Do folks think that public meeting might be in order? Given a big project that I’m working on at the moment, I’m not in a position to take an active role, but I’d be happy to volunteer a few hours, and help promote the concept, if people think that there’s potential… So, if you have thoughts, please leave a comment or two. I’d be especially interested to hear from folks who might have firsthand knowledge of successful bookstore cooperatives, like Seminary in Chicago, The Big Idea in Pittsburgh, and Rainbow in Madison. I’m curious as to how they’re structured, and what we might be able to learn from them… And, of course, I’d like to know whether you might shop at local book cooperative, or, better yet, contribute your time and energy toward making it happen.

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  1. Lynne
    Posted November 12, 2014 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    I would buy a share! I even might be willing to help out as time allows. I could be especially helpful if there was any interest in stocking new trade books. I currently work in the book industry for a company that has many independent book stores as customers. I pretty much spend my days talking to publisher sales reps and buyers at independent book stores. I know a guy who is a genius when it comes to turns and I am fairly confident he would let me pick his brain.

  2. Lynne
    Posted November 12, 2014 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    Also, the ABA is a good resource


  3. Posted November 13, 2014 at 4:14 am | Permalink

    Bookstore / cafe / all-ages music venue maybe?

    Favorite memory of that cavernous room was a legendary Cramps-level punk revival show with the Emily’s Sassy Lime, Arab on Radar, and the Make-Up, and complete pandemonium.

    That used to happen here!

  4. Bob
    Posted November 13, 2014 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    Aren’t they called public libraries?

  5. John Galt
    Posted November 13, 2014 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Libraries are for Communists.

  6. Megan
    Posted November 13, 2014 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    What is a bookstore co op? How is it different from a library or a bookstore? Or is it a bookstore with many owners? I would probably buy a share once i learned more about it.

  7. roots
    Posted November 13, 2014 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Sounds awesome!

  8. Posted November 13, 2014 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    I would not only buy a share, I, too, would be willing to work there! As a local author living in Ypsilanti and about to celebrate the publication of my first book, I have been disappointed not to have a bookstore here in town at which to hold a reading, stage a signing, or connect with potential Ypsilanti readers. Bookstores are great community spaces. A coop bookstore seems like a great idea for a space that’s currently sitting vacant, doing no one any good. I support this movement and hope the idea gains traction!

  9. Courtney
    Posted November 13, 2014 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    I don’t know much about how co-op bookstores work, but I would definitely be interested in learning more, getting involved, and potentially working there. I think this sounds like a great idea all around and would love to have a bookstore in downtown.

  10. Posted November 13, 2014 at 10:49 am | Permalink


    Depending on the terms, I would be interested in participating. I would recommend that the book store also double as a space for literary events.

    I’m tempted to say City Farm.

  11. Joe
    Posted November 13, 2014 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    I would definitely buy a share and work there.

  12. Lynne
    Posted November 13, 2014 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Maybe we could talk to people at the Food Co-op. Would a coop bookstore be much different from a co-op grocery store? We already have a working model for a co-op business right in our own community.

  13. sarah
    Posted November 13, 2014 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    i live around the corner from the old green room and would be so happy for a co-op bookstore to occupy that space. sign me up for a share! i’ve been hoping something magical would move in there.

  14. Posted November 13, 2014 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Definitely interested in this. Like Dug – I have many fond memories of this space, and have long-wondered if something there is still possible. This sounds like a great idea.

  15. kjc
    Posted November 13, 2014 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    next, this.


  16. Posted November 13, 2014 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Anyone interested in participating and/or buying a share please email me at sbeal@gobeal.com. I am going to make a little list and then email everyone to let them know when we are going to meet to discuss it. I have talked to Lisa and Richard and they are interested in meeting to brainstorm about the idea. I am going to invite Corinne with the Ypsi Food Co-Op to the meeting so we can pick her brain about Co-Ops. I hope she will come.

    Peter, the nice thing about 206 W. Michigan is that it is a very large space. I have never been in the book store over by cross but I would say it is at least twice or maybe 3 times the size. There would be plenty of space for a couple of private reading rooms and also event space for literary events and community events.

  17. Dawn Gendich
    Posted November 13, 2014 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    I would be interested in learning more!

  18. Liz DMG
    Posted November 13, 2014 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Megan, a cooperative is an ownership model that can be used for any type of business. There are different types of cooperatives. For example, the Ypsilanti Growers’ Co-op is a producers’ co-op.

    This would be consumer co-op, meaning it would be owned by those who consume the goods & services it offers.

    I have some experience with co-ops (I’ve been on Ypsi Food Co-op’s board for 6.5 years and the board president for 3). I’m also an attorney who’s focused on building the local, sustainable economy. I am a strong supporter of the co-op model of ownership and would love to be involved.

  19. Posted November 13, 2014 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know much about how co-op bookstores work,

    Broad strokes: a lot like a retail food co-op, or like REI: anybody can walk in off the street and exchange money for goods (in this case books instead of quinoa or hiking boots), without having to know or care that it’s a co-op rather than an single individual who owns the business.

    If that person cares to know, though, they also have the opportunity to become a member-owner of the business, which gives them the opportunity to help elect the board of directors of the business (on a one human, one vote basis), and possibly receive a membership dividend or discount, possibly with the opportunity to exchange labor for an additional discount.

    …of course, there’s a lot of legalese in incorporation and bylaws and so forth to get to that point, and we juuuuust missed the chance to leverage NASCO’s annual national Institute in A2 last week, but there’s a lot of expertise in our area we can draw on.

  20. Lynne
    Posted November 13, 2014 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Since it is free, I went ahead and contacted the ABA for their special bookstore start up kit and can bring those materials to any meetings set up.

  21. Steve Swan
    Posted November 13, 2014 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    If this works, can we relaunch the Velvet Touch as a co-op next?

  22. Stupid Hick
    Posted November 13, 2014 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Like Dug, when I recall the “Green Room”, I’m transported to that awesome Make Up concert in the mid or late 90s. I saw the Cramps at the Latin Quarter in 1989 or 1990, and that was almost as awesome too. The good old days.

  23. Posted November 13, 2014 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    City Farm

  24. wobblie
    Posted November 13, 2014 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    I would buy a share/join, but I’m with Pete–City Farm

  25. Teresa
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    I’d buy a member/share. It would be great to have most of my retail needs (food and books), covered by local coops.

  26. Posted November 14, 2014 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Like Rebecca, I am an Yspilanti author and have bemoaned the fact we don’t have another bookstore in town. I am also a fan of cooperative businesses and would love to participate. I am friendly with the owners of BookBound in Ann Arbor (they hosted my book launch) and would be happy to ask them about starting a bookstore. I don’t think we need another cafe in town, so would hesitate to include one in the plans, but I think having a space designated for readings and/or signings would likely help bring in authors, which would help drive sales. I might even be able to help with that, as I’ve gotten to know quite a few people in the publishing industry over the last few years. Count me in.

  27. Jean Henry
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I’m in. Couple of recommendations to avoid City Farm fate. Talk to Angela Barbash and Jessica Meissner about cooperative structures. Talk to Paul Saginaw or any number of Zing folk about implementing Open Book Finance and going through a visioning process, followed by a solid pro-forma. As cool as it would be to just do it, planning this thing right could make it sustainable, set you up for grants, make it much more likely that it could pay decent wages etc. Peter Larsen, I see this as an opportunity not only to provide a needed city service and venue, but to educate members on basic retail economics– which in turn would prepare them to be successful in their own endeavors. No one is likely to make money on this venture. Ideally they could pay a living wage and stay afloat. This town is awash in books and people with bookstore expertise. There is huge opportunity here, but cataloguing and maintaining the space and finances requires a lot of diligence. Open books takes a while to establish but also spreads the workload and responsibility. Common wisdom holds that a space is the last thing one looks for in this process, but many entrepreneurs ignore this advice and learn frying pan style. I’d highly recommend a hybrid approach. Use the space to garner interest, but draw from community resources– not just $$ but knowhow and engagement– to make it work. Do not sign a lease until the business plan and structure are firm. Just don’t, please. Cheap gets expensive fast.

  28. Jean Henry
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Also, as an alternative: http://www.bookthing.org

  29. Horace
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    My first reaction was excitement about this project, but after realizing how involved Stewart Beal will be from reading his posted comment, I am wary. I would suggest speaking with residents of his properties to find out more about how he deals with his affairs before handing a check over.

  30. Yup
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    It doesn’t say in the post that the cooperative bookstore, should we start one, would have to be in the old Green Room building. It also doesn’t say that Beal would have to be involved. He merely offered a potential space.

  31. Posted November 14, 2014 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Yup I thought it was a great idea and offered a space that I thought might work. I don’t have time to be very involved, but offered space and would be willing to put in some work to get it started. My expertise is in construction and real estate and that is needed to accomplish this endeavor. I don’t own 206 W. Michigan but know the owner and he would be supportive of this idea. There are challenges with the space at 206 W. Michigan including the need for a new heating and cooling system. If there was a better space in downtown for this concept that should be explored as well.

  32. Posted November 14, 2014 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Horace it sounds like you might be the man for the job. I will email the list of people that have expressed interest to you and you can take the lead on organizing the meeting! If you have the vision, passion, and energy of doing something positive for the City I would encourage you to do so!

  33. Lisa Bashert
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    I’d love to be involved — the bookstore would be my FOURTH co-op (Ypsi Food Co-op, Ypsi Growers Co-op, CORY – Co-op ORchard of Ypsilanti)! Like Teresa, I’d love to get most of my needs met through local cooperatives. I’d buy a share and definitely want to work there. I have bookstore experience (going waaaaay back, now) from the Community News Centers in Ann Arbor in the 1970s-80s. I hope to meet with Murph, Corinne, Stewart and any others that are interested. Thanks for furthering this thread, Mark!

  34. Horace
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    In addition to vision, passion, and energy, it also takes follow-through and commitment to a project to make it successful. I would say that those are qualities you should add to your list before taking on anything new. I do hope you are able to bring positive things to this city in the future and wish you good luck! I just wanted to point out that there are people out here who are cautious when it comes to projects you are tied to.

  35. Posted November 14, 2014 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Wobblie/Jean Henry/Peter Larson/Dawn/Horace/Yup/Lynne please email me at sbeal@gobeal.com and I will add you to the list.

  36. Kristen Cuhran
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    I can probably get behind a book store…. but, to throw it out there, esp. if it’s a big space, I’d like to see something more like Bus Boys & Poets. Performance space/possibly food & drinks…

  37. Lynne
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    I would think that food/drinks might make getting started more complicated since providing those things requires food inspections from the health dept and whatnot. I do LOVE the idea of reserving a good bit of the space as performance space though. For one thing, it means fewer books which may sound like a bad thing but isn’t actually for a start up since coming up with the initial stock is a probably the biggest hurdle.

  38. Lynne
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    I’ve already been added to the list, thanks Stewart

  39. D'Real
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    Now what?

  40. Posted November 14, 2014 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    OK, as it looks as though quite a few of us are really interested in pursuing this, I’d like to suggest a public meeting at a neutral space. With all due respect to Stewart, I think that, before we start considering locations, we have to first assess whether or not the market will support a store along the lines of what we’re envisioning, and, if so, how it would be structured, capitalized, managed, stocked, etc. Only then, I think, once we have a business plan, would we want to consider potential spaces.

    For what it’s worth, I think that the Green Room would definitely be near the top of the list, if not at the very top. As Stewart mentioned, though, there is not HVAC in that building at the moment, and I’ve heard that the installation of such a system would be on the order of $15,000, which the building owner doesn’t seem willing to spend. So, if we wanted to go that route, we’d likely have to arrange something where we were paying for the HVAC in lieu of rent for a given period of time, or something along those lines. Having not talked with Stewart or the building’s owners directly, I have no idea what might be possible, but, like I said, I think it’s too early to discuss locations anyway.

    So, assuming others are in agreement, I’d like to suggest we meet later this month, perhaps at the Senior Center. If you would like to attend, and haven’t already left a comment here with your email address, please let me know and I will add you to the list.

  41. Jessica
    Posted November 15, 2014 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Hopefully needless to say, I’d buy a share! I would definitely love to see more music, in Ypsi, too, so if that’s part of it, I’m double in.

  42. Posted November 15, 2014 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Mark, please add me to the meeting list. You should have my email now, and I would be very interested in dedicating my time, energy, and experience to this potentially awesome project.

  43. Posted November 15, 2014 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    And thank you everyone, for expressing interest and sending in your email addresses. I’ll be in touch shortly with details on a possible meeting.

  44. Posted November 15, 2014 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Is this wedded to the old Green Room space?

  45. Posted November 15, 2014 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    I suppose what I’m getting at is, I support the idea of a coop bookstore, but I would be less inclined to participate if it were “brought to you by Stewart Beal.”

    I am more enthused about supporting a community gathering place than merely helping to support a local landlord.

  46. Posted November 15, 2014 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Peter I would encourage you to carefully research the available buildings for rent downtown and create an excel sheet evaluating the sf, price, strenths/weaknesses. That would get the endeavor off to a great start.

    It should also be noted (again so Peter is clear) that this concept is not wedded to 206 W. Michigan. It also should be noted (again so Peter is clear) that I do not own 206 W. Michigan but do have a relationship with the owner George Fotiadis. My agreement with him is that I take a $0 commission for placing a tenant. My interest is merely to reduce the number of vacant storefronts in downtown while providing a interesting new business to visit. I suggested 206 W. Michigan because 1) I believe it is the best location and size for a concept like this 2) because it is the building I am most familiar with 3) I know the owner would be interested in monetarily participating in getting the space ready for the concept 4) I know the owner is flexible on the rent and willing to accept low rent in the beginning so long as it increases over a period of time.

  47. Eli
    Posted November 15, 2014 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Possibly talk to Sheridan at Cross Street books about selling some of his books on consignment. He needs to get some out of there to reopen, but I doubt he’ll want to get rid of his entire collection.

    Also as far a business plan goes. Consider some other products and services that are simple to offer. Art space for first fridays, coffee, bagels, magazines, art supplies, poetry night, music, local music and publications stand, etc. Also the space in the basement has potential for art studio space, which is a great way to pull some consistent money for rent if you can get it filled. The more you can get people to come in and check it out, the more books you sell.

  48. Dan
    Posted November 15, 2014 at 8:15 pm | Permalink


    I’ve been a huge critic of your handling of Thompson, but if what you just posted is all on the up an up, then I commend you. Hopefully a time comes soon that we dont have to qualify our commendations and we can just appreciate your work in Ypsi

  49. Ypsilanti Tenants
    Posted November 16, 2014 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Hello Fellow Beal Tenants, Activists, and other concerned folks,

    On Tuesday November 18th, a group of concerned citizens, renters, and organizers will be attending the regular city council meeting. We will be going to inform city council of rampant problems with landlords, and particularly Beal, in Ypsilanti. If you are a renter in Ypsilanti (either residential or commercial) and have had serious issues with your landlord (negligence, harassment, unfulfilled maintenance issues, etc.) please come join us. City Council has responsibilities to the residents of Ypsilanti and can more seriously enforce the codes they have set out if they are made aware. Furthermore, we need to make the point to City Council that giving tax write-offs to landlords who are not responsible to their tenants needs to stop immediately.

    The meeting will start at 7:00pm, but people will be arriving at City Hall any time after 6:30 to meet before and discuss other actions that we can take. City Hall is located at 1 S Huron St. If you would like more information, please feel free to write to us at ypsitenants@gmail.com.

    Please feel free to email with any questions or concerns. If you are interested in getting more involved, we would love to have you join us at our next organizing meeting, tomorrow, on Sunday the 16th at 4:00pm at Café Ollie in Depot Town.

    Thanks and we hope to see you there,
    Ypsilanti Tenants’ Rights Association

  50. Posted November 16, 2014 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Dear Alex and Ypsilanti Tenants,

    I got your email and just wondering it I can assist your efforts in anyway. Tenants rights and quality housing are very important to us at Beal Properties. We pride ourselves in providing affordable and quality housing and also being in compliance with all City codes. Now that Beal manages over 600 apartments it is more important than ever to work well with the residents and City Officials in the cities in which we do business. Beal Properties currently works very closely with city staff to follow all codes and ordinances. Now that we manage over 50 properties in the City we on average pass more than 1 inspection per week. I personally manage the maintenance department and track every maintenance request. We take pride in how quickly we address maintenance problems we are notified about. I work 7 days a week to ensure resident concerns are properly addressed. Property management and maintenance is a tough business but we at Beal do it very well and better than most.

    The City of Ypsilanti is already very aggressive in enforcing codes and ordinances upon landlords. The City rental inspection program is the most aggressive in the State of Michigan, requiring every property be inspected every 2 years. For instance Ypsilanti Township and the City of Detroit don’t inspect any multifamily housing at all. Furthermore in Ypsilanti you can also call the inspectors personally. The other day one of the residents of 210 N. Washington called the City because they were not satisfied with the heat in their bathroom. The City inspector immediately called me and we had the very minor problem resolved within the hour. In no other City that I am aware of do residents and landlords get that sort of service from City officials. I am not saying your efforts are not important, I agree that they are important! It is important that the citizens of Ypsilanti continue to remind City Council and City Officials how important it is to hold landlords to an extremely high standard.

    I have your phone number because you were living in 128 College Place when we were hired to manage it by your former landlord so I will call you to follow up on this email. I will also be attending the meeting this afternoon at Café Ollie an the council meeting on Tuesday to make sure any concerns that are raised about our organization are addressed as quickly as possible.

    I have copied the members of the Ypsilanti City Council to this email as I assume they have seen yours.


    Stewart Beal

  51. Posted November 16, 2014 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    “I have your phone number because you were living in 128 College Place when we were hired to manage it by your former landlord so I will call you to follow up on this email. I will also be attending the meeting this afternoon at Café Ollie an the council meeting on Tuesday to make sure any concerns that are raised about our organization are addressed as quickly as possible.”


  52. Posted November 16, 2014 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    I was visiting my sister in SF this week, and loved her neighborhood bookstore, Bird & Beckett, a gem of a place crammed into a room half the size of Beezy’s, on a sleepy side street in Glen Park:


    Live jazz twice a week, carefully-curated new and used books and a crate or two of jazz vinyl, a tiny stage, and that’s it. No seating, cafe, wifi, etc., which is fine by most:


    Fewer spots these days for live, local performances…

  53. Posted November 18, 2014 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    Hope to hear about a meeting on the subject of a cooperative bookstore SOON. ***EXCITED***

  54. Posted November 18, 2014 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    I plan to send an email out later this week about it, Lisele. Thanks for your continued interest.

  55. Ben
    Posted November 18, 2014 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    I would be interested and would buy a share. A few things in my head too. In response to “what is a coop?” a consumer coop is only one kind of coop, where the customers own the store. What if the workers owned it? A workers coop could be even better because then the workers there would have agency over their livelihood. Or a combination like Black Star Brewery in Austin. They are a customer / workers coop. They have a customer membership which elects a board and the operations side is run by a worker’s council, I believe. Coops need to take workers rights into account and customer based ones don’t nessecarily do that.

    Also, it would be incredible to see Sheridan involved in this (yes I’m serious). Maybe he could cut down his collection, at least in half, and we could start with that. Also, I think if Sheridan and Stewart and Mark and Lisa and Murph and whoever else joined as member / owner / workers, we would have true democracy. No one would dominate.

    People mentioned an all ages venue as well? I’m too young to remember the Green Room. Is that what that was? We should invite Shelley Salant perhaps, an incredible local music organiser Ypsilantian. Films could be shown as well (a solution to the desire to see a local cinema, without taking work away from sex workers who need a job to live).

    So many thoughts. I would love to be involved. Of course.

  56. Ben
    Posted November 18, 2014 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

    Also another thought. I wonder if it would be possible to become a cooperative UNDER THE AUSPICES of the Ypsilanti Cooperative Initiative?

  57. 734
    Posted November 19, 2014 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    What is the Ypsilanti Cooperative Initiative, Ben?

  58. Erin S
    Posted November 19, 2014 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Mark, if I’m not too late I’d love to be added to the email list as well.

  59. Ben
    Posted November 19, 2014 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Ypsilanti Cooperative Initiative is the original name of the Ypsilanti Food Cooperative. It had broader goals, in terms of beyond food, I believe. Recently I was chatting with another Director and she told me that there was a chance it would be possible to run another cooperative institution under that umbrella, such as a credit union. Much more research would need to be done, but it would be interesting to see!

  60. Posted November 19, 2014 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    I’m curious what the references to “City Farm” mean? Is this a reference to urban gardening movements / food co-ops? Curious about that.

    Just looking at it on the face, I don’t find the cooperative model that the Food Co-ops or the urban agriculture movements use to be very useful as models for running a bookstore. The used book trade is much more similar to consignment, antique, or resale trades, where individuals need to go outside the store to acquire stock…that is, namely, go to book shows, book fairs, the big ones like the one the Jewish women’s group runs at Laurel Park, or go to estate sales, scout out collections, appraise and buy in bulk (i think DawnTreader and Westside Books in A2 are the most efficient at this locally, perhaps Motte And Bailey too…). Urban Ag and food co-ops are more dependent on shared labor and, which I think really bats last but is totally under-considered locally (see Chicago and Detroit’s urban ag movement…) weather & climate.

    It seems to me that to get something like this going is gonna require some…gasp…corporate sponsorship, government grants, and charitable largesse more than shared labor and shares…but I dunno…I could be wrong, maybe there are existing and successful models out there for efficient cooperative bookstores…but the last one that tried it… Shaman Drum in its twilight years…didn’t prosper on that model. I’d look to something like adding in an 826michigan involvement, and maybe the Universities and local schools to keep some regular funded use of the space when books aren’t flying out the door enough to pay the bills?

  61. Posted November 19, 2014 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Then again, this bookstore in Pittsburgh is chugging along on the Co-op model for over ten years…


  62. site admin
    Posted November 19, 2014 at 4:18 pm | Permalink



  63. Posted November 19, 2014 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    I don’t understand why any government should support a venture like this. If it can’t exist on its own and sustain itself, it isn’t worth doing.

  64. Posted November 19, 2014 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    If government were to get involved, it would be best to put those resources into a completely free and open model like the Ypsilanti public library, who desperately needs support.

  65. Frosted Flakes
    Posted November 19, 2014 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    My initial reaction was that a book coop would compete against the public library and that would be a very bad thing. Anybody else have that concern? How is a book coop better than the library?

  66. Liz
    Posted November 19, 2014 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    I’m interested in buying a share and working in the bookstore. Would you add me to the list, please?

  67. Posted November 19, 2014 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    Not better or worse, just different. As far as I understand, it would be a store, where things are sold, but the ownership would be in the hands of whoever bought shares into it. Kind of like the Ypsi Food Coop.

  68. Posted November 19, 2014 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    I could be wrong. Maybe these guys want to make a community library, which wouldn’t make any sense at all.

  69. Posted November 19, 2014 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, I don’t think anyone is looking to run the library out of business by opening a competing library. That would just be silly. What we’re talking about is bringing a community owned bookstore to downtown. The details have yet to be worked out, so everything is pretty much on the table. I don’t imagine, however, that anyone is going to stand up and say, “Let’s make a second library.” As for taking money from the state, I don’t see that happening either. I don’t think anyone wants to build something that would have to be grant supported. I do, however, like the idea of partnering with another group, like 826. I think that would be pretty sweet, and it could help defray costs a bit… Lots of things for us to consider.

  70. Gillan
    Posted November 19, 2014 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    I also don’t see it competing with the library. You would be selling books not lending them. The library does have a used book store at Whittaker but the one downtown is small.

    That said, I think it’s important to acknowledge that there *IS* a functional (and quite nice) bookstore in Ypsilanti, the Blackstone Book Store and Cultural Center, also downtown on Michigan Avenue. This is not to say that we can’t have two bookstores, or more. Growing the literary community is a good thing. In fact it would be great if your used book store could send people looking for new books or things not in stock down the block to the new book store where they can order anything for you! Or over to the library where we can get books from hundreds of libraries in Michigan. Or help promote the free literary events the library brings to town.

    It’s just that several comments on this thread have said incorrectly that there is no other bookstore in ypsi, so I just wanted everyone to be aware that we do in fact have a cool locally owned bookstore downtown that just opened in the last couple years. Go visit them, book lovers! And then start your store. I’ll be in for a share as long as I don’t have to go to any meetings :)

  71. Graham
    Posted November 20, 2014 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Though I am an out of state military member, I maintain my residency in Michigan, and it’s stuff like this that will bring me back to my hometown someday. If planned right, this could really work. Having watched all the failed business ventures in Ypsi for my time growing up there, and my time away, it seems the consistent issue is a lack of planning. It is simple but overlooked ALL OF THE TIME (see any episode of Bar Rescue or Kitchen Nightmares). So Mark is definitely right, a step by step, slow and meticulous plan is 100% necessary. I also hope Mr. Beal is genuinely interested in seeing this succeed, as well as any other ventures he has in Ypsi. I too am pretty cynical over the Thompson Block debacle, but if he FINALLY gets it together this time, I might be willing to forget that. I do know the HDC has very unrealistic expectations sometimes (they had frequent run-ins with my own family), and that can make progress quite challenging. Anyhoo, fingers crossed for this venture. I would like to be on the mailing list for updates, even if I can’t attend meetings. I can definitely spread the word to Ypsi friends and family though!

  72. Laura Bien
    Posted November 20, 2014 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    Lots of good ideas and cautions here from commenters. Please add me to the email list, Mark, and thanks.

  73. Amy Morgan
    Posted November 21, 2014 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    I’d buy a share! If not too late, please add me to the list

  74. Posted November 21, 2014 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Wow, quite the interest here, and while I think the enthusiasm is great and should be encouraging to anyone who wants to jump in on this as the leader/main investor, it seems to me that saying “me too” isn’t likely to get this done. I don’t know a whole lot about the book retail business as an English professor-type, but I think the main way this is going to get done is if someone puts the resources into this up front and then sells shares rather than the other way around. If that happens, if it’s something I know can invest my time and effort in to help out someone else who is taking this on, great. But until that happens, well, “me too” doesn’t get far.

    BTW, I’ve been a fan of book stores of all types my entire life– except for the kind of mess of a store that was Cross Street Books. Too big and crazy of a mess.

  75. Posted November 22, 2014 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    I like the idea, but the more I think about it, this could lead to a lot of bickering. A food co-op is one thing, but a book co-op is quite another. While it is easy to have a wide variety of foods that people like, books occupy an even wider space. I can imagine that people would start bickering that certain books weren’t stocked or weren’t even displayed in a manner that some might desire.

    Mr. Krause is correct. A single owner who sells shares, kind of like what Beezy had suggested a while back when she was thinking about taking the Wolverine space would make more sense. A committee based operation could turn into a disaster.

  76. Posted November 22, 2014 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    I agree that there are any number of things that could doom a cooperative bookstore. I don’t think, however, that’s reason enough not to meet and discuss the possibilities. The fact is, other cooperative bookstores do exist. Admittedly, they’re in larger markets, but they do exist.

    Anyone who would like to discuss this is free to come out on the evening of December 2 and join us.

    Here’s a Facebook Event link, where you’ll find details.

  77. Andre Peltier
    Posted November 24, 2014 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    As both a longtime book seller and a lit professor, I would certainly be interested in working with this. The industry is much more complex than people think though. Also, to say that Ypsi is w/o a bookstore is to overlook Black Stone right down the street from the old Green Room. Not a huge store, but it is a store.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] people came together to take back public land and create a commons. We live in a community where people are talking about forming a cooperative bookstore. We live in a community full of artists and makers. We live in a community where our local waters […]

  2. By Ypsi Book Co-op meeting December 2 on December 1, 2014 at 10:57 pm

    […] that we consider starting a new, cooperatively-owned bookstore to satisfy the perceived need. Both ideas were vigorously debated, and, ultimately, it was decided that all interested parties should get together to hash things out […]

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