ITHACA, N.Y. — Buffalo Street Books is not closing.
After news last week of the bookstore’s piling debt and possible need to close up shop, the community stepped up to pledge funding, ideas and time to keep Ithaca’s independent and cooperatively owned bookstore open.
Less than a week ago, the executive board called an emergency meeting at the bookstore to share the bad financial news — the store needs to raise a lot of money quickly before the holidays or close.
The meeting was packed with community members and ended hopeful, with many ideas suggested, pledges to volunteer and an anonymous $6,000 donation.
The good news that Buffalo Street Books will remain open came Tuesday afternoon via email.
“We were thrilled to see the more than 120 people who attended our emergency meeting, many of you standing throughout. Seeing the support, and reading the almost 200 pledges we have received so far, gives us confidence for the future,” the board said in an email to owners.
Buffalo Street Books has outstanding bills of nearly $100,000, which is preventing them from purchasing new books from distributors and publishers. To keep functioning, the bookstore needs to raise at least $75,000.
In just five days, community members have committed a little over $50,000 to help keep the store open.
During the emergency meeting, Buffalo Street Books board president Rob Vanderlan made it clear that the board wants to do more than just survive the holidays, however. If they are going to keep the bookstore open, they need to find a financially sustainable path forward.
In the email update Tuesday, the board laid out two steps of a plan. They said they “will not follow a model of struggle followed by bailout.”
The first step is to close the bookstore’s yearly deficit of about $50,000 by cutting costs. They estimate between rent and payroll that they can save about $25,000 per year. Second, they say they will “make good” on their promise to be more cooperatively owned and operated. They say they plan to involve owners more directly in the store and do year-long fundraising.
So far, 118 owners have pledged to volunteer time to Buffalo Street Books.
During the emergency meeting last week, community members and owners who attended the meeting offered ideas to help the store. Some of the ideas included considering nonprofit status, increasing their online presence, holding more events and focusing more on outreach programming.
The board acknowledged that what they are doing is an experiment “and a risky one at that.” They plan to regularly assess their progress and share results with owners.
Learn more about Buffalo Street Books at their website.