How can indie bookstores remain true community spaces in a polarized society? If they can’t or don’t want to, what are the consequences?

Host:  Jill Hendrix

Participants: Ruth Liebmann from PRH, Connie (writer), Sara Look from Charis, Ryan Jackson from Open Books, Jahtiek Long, Kevin Smokler, Katy Budget Books used bookstore, Alex Green from PW, Humaira (writer/consumer), Kim / Third Place, and many others


What makes a community space?
-welcome: staff, books you recognize

-physical space: community meeting area, reading room, top of mind place to meet people


-programming (like offered by museums and other cultural institutions)


-how offering yourself to the community, accessible, holding out olive branches

-how to make everyone feel welcome, whether it’s a community demographic that usually shops with you or not

-making sure your staff looks like/represents the actual demographic of your neighborhood

-but also how the community comes at you (especially in more urban areas) and how that affects your frontline staff and their feelings of safety

-semicolon in Chicago given as a great example

Charis as true social mission store vs Fiction Addiction as general indie vs stores that “act as if mission driven, but just a general indie”. Where are the lines drawn? Does it matter? What is the goal of the store? As a business coach, I tell clients that the 1st priority of business should be to ensure viability of the business. How is your goal different if you are a social mission store?

How to be profitable enough to:

-offer free things to community

-pay frontline employees a sustainable wage

-be not stressed enough to be truly welcoming
-funding model: author adoption program

Frontline staff
-the first face of your business
-make your space feel welcoming
-usually lowest paid
-safety concerns/issues re books that you stock tend to bring in certain customers, promote certain conversations they don’t want to have.

-can’t be pedantic/snooty; does becoming a “social mission” make that tendency worse

-need to be a values fit with the store; does freedom of speech as a store value limit staff diversity?

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