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An --- OPEN BOOK --- Review

Bookstore, Open Book, Schwartz, Co-op,

When it was announced that the Schwartz Bookstore in Shorewood would be closing back in February, it was stunning news not only for folks in Shorewood, but also the many patrons from Whitefish Bay, Fox Point, the East Side, River West, etc……

 

I posted a blog on Feb 18, 2009, asking if it was the End of the Story for Schwartz?

 

I suggested at the time that perhaps a Co-op could be formed, that would enable the bookstore to continue.  Schwartz had not closed yet, and after talking with the owner, Carol Grossmeyer,  I suggested that if a Co-op could raise $400,000, there was a chance to keep the bookstore viable.

 

Notably, at the same time, fellow blogger Joe Mangialmele  on his Village Square Blog http://www.shorewoodnow.com/blogs/communityblogs/from_the_village_square.html

was imploring the Village Administration, Village Board, Shorewood BID District and the Shorewood CDA to help in seeing what could be done to save Schwartz.

 

In concluding my posting back then, I noted the concerns and issues I had about a possible Co-op venture --- reiterated here:

 

Some ideas/concerns/issues that come to mind in such a venture, that I have thought of:

 

a) $400,000 could equal 4000 folks at $100 each or 400 folks at $1000 each, or variations in between.

 

b) Can this be done soon enough to retain some of the current talented employees of Schwartz's.

 

c) Are there area banks that will want to support such a community venture.

 

d) Do the demographics of Schwartz customers extend to Riverwest, the East Side, WFB ????

 

e) Who at the Village level will take on the task of coordinating the Administration, Board, BID and CDA ----  Guy Johnson, Village President ??? Chris Swartz, Village Administrator ??? One of the unopposed Village Board Members on the election ballot like Jeff Hanewall or Margaret Hickey ???

 

f) What support, if any, will Roundy's be willing to give to the effort ?

 

Unfortunately, neither Joe nor I found any support from the Village of Shorewood, or Schwartz’s patrons, in saving the Schwartz operation.

 

The store was closed --- the last of the books were sold off --- and the store fixtures were sold off ---  the store became an empty shell.

 

Thus was the LAST CHAPTER FOR SCHWARTZ!

 BUT

some enterprising individuals --- led by a visionary Keith Schmitz --- STARTED WRITING THE FIRST CHAPTER OF A NEW BOOK ---  AN “OPEN BOOK”!

 

It was perhaps fortuitous that Schwartz actually did close, as it enabled the Open Book organizers to think outside the box, and formulate a business plan that may be more conducive to a Co-op operation.

Envisioning a smaller operation than the former Schwartz, the new Co-op also started with a smaller expectation of the funds that would be needed.  Instead of the $400,000 investment that would have been necessary to continue the Schwartz format, the group felt that if they could raise $175,000, they could be in business.

 

To date the Co-op has over 800 members, not just from Shorewood, but from throughout the Northshore, Milwaukee’s East Side, and River West, and almost all other parts of Metro Milwaukee.

 

With a basic membership costing $50, and many folks donating much more than that, some up to $1000, the Co-op is approaching its goal --- to date having raised over $80,000 --- not including the loan from Shorewood.

 

The Village of Shorewood finally got into the act, providing a $35,000 interest free loan. 

 

(Cynically, I and many others believe  this was a CYA by the Village Board, after the big controversy of them giving $183,300 to the Harleys Clothing Store --- whose owner happens to be the president of the Shorewood Bid).

 

Unexpectedly, in a big stroke of luck for the Co-op ---  Roundy’s which owns the building that the Schwartz store was in, agreed to rent the same space to Open Book, at about ¼ of the rent they were charging Schwartz! 

 

At least in the short term, this has provided Open Book with a high profile presence on Oakland Avenue, and perhaps they will pick up some of the former Schwartz patrons.

 

Unfortunately, this deal from Roundy’s came too late to benefit from the “fire sale” of the Schwartz fixtures, which had already been sold off.  Much of the new investment by the Co-op has been on fixtures, furnishings, etc.

 

Presently, the big upside to Open Book is their inclusion of a coffee house, support from many Seniors in the area, and from Shorewood High School students --- who have volunteered a lot of time and effort in getting the new store open.

 

Additionally, Open Book is striving to be much more than just a bookstore. 

 

After all, the prognosis for an independent bookstore is not that great now-a-days, with the fierce and predatory competition from the big box stores.

 

With the additional space that Open Book has chanced into, they are planning to make good use of it as:

 

A place for Organizations to have Meetings,

A venue to present Book Reviews by Authors and Groups, and

A Venue for Performances --- Musical, Theatrical, and more.

 

Although I have titled this posting as an Open Book “Review” --- it is not a certainty that this book will be finished!

 

There has been controversy regarding Open Book and money received from the Village.  There has been confusion as to whether Open Book is a “true” Co-op, or really an LLC.  And the acceptance by the consumers and patrons is not a foregone conclusion.

 

Open Book has retained a lawyer in Madison, who is an expert on Co-ops, and they intend to indeed, be a true Co-op.  Details like voting rights of members (per member, or pro-rated by contribution) are being worked out, and I have been told that they should have everything in proper order by the end of the year, and the attorney is reviewing the proposed charter and details.

 

I don’t think that it is any secret that the ultimate success and survival of Open Book rests upon just one factor ---- YOU!

 

Will the Community support its Home Town Business --- or will the lure of the Big Box Stores keep them away?

 

Now is a very crucial time for any retail endeavor.  The Christmas Buying Season is usually the “make or break” for all retailers.

 

How much of YOUR Christmas shopping be done at Open Book?

 

How many of the Local Organizations, patronize Open Book for meeting space?

 

Where will YOU stop by for YOUR Cup of Coffee?

 

Will Open Book truly become a Community Meeting Place?

 

The Writing of the Next Chapter for Open Book will be Written by YOU and the COMMUNITY. 

 

Will YOU write a Happy or Sad Ending?

 

 

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED --- SIGN IN AND LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK.

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