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Harsh times for the Solidarity Co-op Bookstore: Tripping downwards

Tripping downwards

Dutil: Looking for a change of scene
Photo: Joseph Yarmush

Concordia's Community Solidarity Co-op Bookstore finds itself in trouble

Chances are, if Concordia’s fledgling Solidarity Co-op Bookstore had migrated to a better location by this time last year, they wouldn’t be struggling to keep books on the shelves today, says bookseller Larissa Dutil. But by the time promises of a more accessible, high-traffic location were broken again, it was too late, leading to a deficit of over $20,000 and cries for help.

Despite the location – a concrete room below student pub Reggie’s that workers call "the ass of the university" – the student-run space has become an oasis for lovers of alternative literature and students looking to buy or sell used textbooks.

As the only store of its kind in Quebec’s English schools, and one of the very few independent anglo bookstores in Montreal, the CCSCB’s diverse collection of new and used books, on topics ranging from politics, history and culture to gender and sexuality, puts it in a unique position vis-à-vis other bookstores. Their not-for-profit pricing policy also means books, stationery and even smokes are sold for less than suggested retail prices. They can order "almost anything," and anyone can shop there. You just have to find the place.

While the search for a new space and sustainable funding continues, bookstore workers will be holding a series of benefit shows to raise funds and awareness. The first show takes place this Saturday, Sept. 10, in Reggie’s (Hall Building’s Mackay street entrance) at 9 p.m. The bookstore will remain open for the curious, but be warned: Partying and steep staircases don’t mix.

For more info, call 848-7395

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  8 comments

  • by Kara Hughes - September 8, 2005, 11:30 am

    I am a part-time student at Concordia and I had NO idea that this bookstore exists. That is pretty sad on my part, but even sadder that I am only finding out about it now when it seems that they may have to close up shop.
    This is always the way though, the places that aren’t trying to screw you over are always the first to go. It is such a great idea to have a non-profit store for cash-strapped University Student. I know where I am buying books and cigarettes now! I have no idea how this store is run or what it’s relationship to the University is but the first people I would be hitting up for cash is the University itself. I realize that there is so much red-tape to go through but in a perfect world this University would take care of this problem.
    Seeing as our world is far from perfect, I think that is it comendable that the students running the store are taking things into their own hands by running fund-raising events like the one on Saturday. I also think it is great publicity for the Hour to have run this story.
    But it all seems a little to late. I have been a part-time student at Concordia for 3 years now and have never seen or heard of this place and never even heard any other students talk about this place. Yes, the location sucks but those in charge should have realized this and tried to get the word out there before they racked up a $20 000 deficit. They could have gone to John Molson Business school and asked the faculty to incoporate a project based on advertising or business plans for this store and use the information and resources to their advantage. It only takes a couple of well placed posters/signs to get word-of-mouth going.

  • by Heath Abram - September 8, 2005, 3:06 pm

    Books are so expensive and students are so poor that I find it hard to believe that this place would be in such trouble. I don’t think a few stairs would turn people off to coming here if they knew they’d be saving money. I am a book enthusiast and I have never heard of it, but of course I’m a Mcgill graduate so maybe that’s why. I think it’s more a matter of getting the word out. Maybe this article will help. I’ll be visiting soon.

  • by Melissa Killborn - September 11, 2005, 7:46 am

    Now that we know where it is of course we will go! Sure, location plays a part in getting in the passers by to come in. But that is just the people who were passing by, who were on their way somewhere else. If you let the public know, in an article as this for example, what goodies are out there, no one minds worming themselves into the “ass of the university” if it means they have found a (so far) little known Montreal treasure. Finding creative ways to promote the bookstore is the way to go. After that, word of mouth is amazing when people feel they have found a good thing. Tell them, and they will come.

  • by Larissa Dutil - September 12, 2005, 8:21 pm

    This may not be appropriate, but, as I am a member of the Hour, why not?
    I am Larissa, and I co-manage the Co-op, and have been doing so for the last 3 years. Why are we having this problem? how are we managing to stay afloat? Well, yes, we are not-for-profit; no, we are not affiliated directly with the University; yes, we have a bad location, and yes, we have been trying to get a better space. Its been a struggle. But we, along with our members and the community feel that we serve a purpose and are a vital member of the Concordia Community and the Community at Large. Our fundraiser was a success at both raising some funds, and raising awareness; through word of mouth, mailing lists and of course, articles like this one in the Hour. We appreciate all those who have discovered us now and in the past, who have supported us through thick and thin. No, I doubt we will go out of business, as there is demand for a place like ours. We have much hope of getting a better space through the help of the Dean of Students, and will find out by November 2005. In the mean time, we had a rip-roaring benefit on Saturday, and we may have more, as feed back has been possitive. I invite any and all who have questions, comments etc. to go to the website (http://www.co-opbookstore.ca) or drop us a line or pay us a visit. Thanks for the encouragement!

  • by Maria Cecillia Silva - September 14, 2005, 10:34 am

    Its a shame that places like this don’t servive. But I have to agree that there couldn’t have been alot of publicity because I was un aware that this place even existed. Many times studants are obliged to by books for a particular coarse and really don’t want to keep them after . It is nice if you can buy a second had book which will cost less and then you can resell it again.The idea is not making money but maybe recycling and saving money.

  • by Meghna Patel - September 17, 2005, 11:10 am

    Being a Concordia student, I have heard of this place before, but have yet to go to it. Maybe cause it seems weird to get there.
    However, aside of me, I have known of many people who do go to this bookstore and find a great slew of deals. I hope they find their way out of the underground of Reggies, and make it to a better location on campus. I;m sure that once they get a better spot, a whole new world of customers will be out there getting books from them! Everyone knows that the Concordia bookstore merchandise is somewhat insanely priced, and we all know that not every student is able to fork out an average of $75 per book. The non-for-profit aspect of this place makes it even better, as they aren’t trying to rob us out of our funds.
    I think I’ll have to go pay them a visit this week, and see what they have to offer. And I’ll also tell some friends and schoolmates what I found. Just to get the word across. After all, a little bit sometimes goes a long way. And if you are all smokers, I suggest you all hit this place up if they’re selling cigs at lesser prices also!

  • by Sonja Mueller - September 18, 2005, 11:52 am

    My boyfriend’s been studying at Concordia for over three years, and this is the first he’s heard of this store. But knowing that there is a co-op available, we want to do what we can to support them and see that this idea grows from being stuck in the “ass of Concordia” to the main floor of every campus in every University.

  • by Sara Boucher - September 27, 2005, 1:51 pm

    I’m always thrilled to find out about small, remote, independent bookstores. Am glad I stumbled upon this article, or I probably would’ve never heard of this place (like others have mentioned before me). I’m positive that people will be willing to make an effort to go out of their way once they hear about this store and it’s principles (and pricing!); I know, I will. Good luck guys!

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