Conversions to cooperatives

From Cultivate.Coop

Organizations and businesses sometimes convert into a cooperative in order to raise capital, grant the organizations' users greater democratic control, take over for a faltering business, realize social and economic justice, and more. This page is meant to document stories of successful and unsuccesful cooperative conversions.

Buffalo Streets Books converts into a community-owned cooperative

Buffalo Street Books, the last independent bookstore in Ithaca, New York, was facing incredible financial difficulties and stated in February 2011 that it would be "liquidating its stock." Rather than close the bookstore's doors forever, however, the store's owner and staff decided to communicate with the residents of Ithaca (a town of 30,000), [1] and bring forward a proposal to turn the business into a "community-owned cooperative" (in this case, a consumer cooperative). The fundraising goal for the community buy-out was set at $200,000, but the proposal generated so much excitement that Buffalo Street Books raised roughly $250,000. [2]

Buffalo Street re-opened in April, 2001 as Buffalo Street Books Cooperative[3] with 500 member-owners.

After the buy-out, a Buffalo Street employee said: "Not only are people excited that the store is going to survive, they’re excited about the way in which it’s going to survive and that they’re going to be a part of keeping it alive." [4]

According to the co-op's website:

The purpose of the Buffalo Street Cooperative at Buffalo Street Books is to provide an excellent bookstore to the community of Ithaca NY and the surrounding area. We believe that independent local bookstores are a valuable community resource and can serve as the heart of a vital and vibrant literary community, as well as the anchor to an economically viable downtown. The members of the Buffalo Street Books Cooperative represent a community dedicated to fostering and supporting literary arts and a love of the written word.

In addition to providing a place to browse and buy a diverse collection of books in the center of downtown Ithaca, Buffalo Street Books provides the community with a place for author readings, musical and theatre events and other community gatherings. We organize and facilitate literary events including readings, book groups, story time events, writing groups for writers of all ages, professional development workshops for writers and more. We work extensively with other organizations and businesses in the community, including but not limited to our three local colleges, the library, and the school system to promote a culture of literacy in Ithaca and the surrounding area.[5]

Buffalo Street now identifies itself as "Ithaca’s Community-Owned Cooperative Bookstore." The co-op's website is