Schwartz void filled by community book co-op

By - Jun 15th, 2009 12:58 pm
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Shorewood, WI. A group of Shorewood, Whitefish Bay and North Shore community activists plans to open and operate a cooperative bookstore, to be located in Shorewood. “It will be a bookstore for the community, created by the community, said organizer Keith Schmitz. “The closing of the Harry W. Schwartz bookstore on Oakland Ave. created a big void in the community.  “It’s a void we plan to close,” said Schmitz.  “We see it as an important quality of life issue.”

The new store, known as Open Book, is expected to open by fall 2009.  Open Book will offer new books, including a children’s section, as well as a limited quantity of quality used books, magazines and books on CD, all at competitive prices.  Open Book will also provide customer searches for hard-to-find titles.

The group’s preliminary business plan calls for a quality store with a comfortable atmosphere that promotes browsing, exploration and community involvement, says manager Lisa Zupke.  Zupke previously managed the Schwartz store on Oakland.

Open Book will be more than just a bookstore, Zupke added.  “We want it to be a community gathering place where friends and neighbors meet for coffee, and small groups hold meetings.  That’s something the community sorely needs.”

Open Book’s organizers see the East Side and North Shore as the ideal location for a community-based bookstore.  “It’s an area chock-full of literate people who understand the importance of a local independent bookstore in the community, and who choose to support well-run local businesses,” says Kit Vernon, a retired marketing executive.

Plans for the store are for 3,500-4,000 sq. ft., to be used for the store, a café/coffee shop, office and storage.  The store’s inventory will be tailored specifically for the market, based on Zupke’s local experience.  Open Book will also host special events such as author readings, children’s story hours, music and book clubs.

Open Book will be a limited liability corporation, run on a cooperative model like the Outpost stores, REI or the Packers.  Cooperative members will help provide start-up capital and operating funding with their memberships.  They will receive discounts on purchases and an annual dividend when possible, plus invitations to special events.

In the approximately one month the group has been planning, it has attracted nearly 400 people who have expressed interest in becoming coop members.

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