Words! bookstore in Asbury Park, N.J., is adopting a co-op model and plans to relaunch this spring under the name Asbury Book Cooperative, NJ.com reported.
"We see the transition to a community-owned cooperative as an opportunity for people to step up, and join efforts in keeping this unique and precious community resource alive and helping it to thrive, financially and otherwise," words! manager Liza Minno Bloom said, adding that about 10% of funds have been raised thus far. "We see the transition to a cooperative as a way to 'put a ring on it' if you will. Our community wants the bookstore to be a community space and the community-owned co-op model allows that to happen."
The Asbury Book Cooperative is offering annual memberships for $25 to $200, and the bookstore is also seeking larger donors to help underwrite the costs of transition, Bloom said. The goal is to raise $100,000 to cover the costs by May. The bookstore has about 100 members and anticipates gaining 300 more by the launch date.
Locals and regular customers have been overwhelmingly supportive, Bloom said. "People have seen towns that have lost bookstores because of the ubiquity of online shopping and they realize that when you lose a bookstore, you lose so much more than a retail space. People are adamant about keeping a bookstore in Asbury Park; they are very protective of it, so this is an opportunity for them to do so."
Bloom told News12 that even though the store's profits have been affected by the success of larger online bookstores, customers have been adamant about keeping words! in the city. "We just really saw this as the opportune moment to make the transition and make the change and as soon as we announced it and put it out there in the world, our community really, really jumped on it," Minno noted.
Kat Balitsos, who just moved to the area, observed: "Something about going to a bookstore always just feels like home. I really liked the staff, they just seem--they're so personable and nice. They always remember you, which is why I like local bookstores."
When she discovered the business was going to be a co-op, she wanted to become a member: "It just seemed like how I'd want to spend my money that I'm spending on books anyway.... People want like that community spot where you can buy your own books and get recommendations and talk about books and that personalness that you don't get from an online bookseller."