Book Culture, which operates two stores in the neighborhood, warned last month that it could go out of business without some sort of financial lifeline. And while store co-owner Chris Doeblin said he had some positive initial conversations with politicians, the store updated customers on Wednesday that “it has become clear that no city or state action is likely to occur soon, or at all, to assist Book Culture.”
So it’s relying on the community for help — not just by asking them to buy books, though that would be nice too. Book Culture is using a community lending model that asks people to lend money for five years at a 4% interest rate. People who want to lend have been urged to email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and ask for a loan contract. The store’s website says that it needs $750,000, and that it will be profitable in 2020 with access to the credit it needs. As of Wednesday, 34 “sponsors” had raised a total of $140,000, or 19% of the total needed.
There has been mixed reaction to Book Culture’s crisis among West Side Rag readers, with some commenters criticizing Book Culture’s past treatment of workers — the store fired workers in 2014 after a union vote, but then rehired them after an outcry. Doeblin also has blamed a state minimum wage hike for some of the store’s business difficulties. In response to a question about his stance on employee compensation, Doeblin wrote “I think the contribution the stores makes to our communities stands for itself.”
He says that progress has been steady on getting community members to loan them money. “We are steadily receiving new pledges and the proceeds from previous pledges which is extremely uplifting,” the Facebook update says. But time is apparently short.
“The next few weeks are a hugely important period for us if we want to continue operating for the fall as we have in the past. This includes what we can provide for the opening of the university semester and the recommencement of our busy events season.”