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Two years after near closure, Ithaca’s community-owned bookstore is 'thriving'

Ithaca Voice
by Kelsey O'Connor

November 14, 2019


ITHACA, N.Y. — Two years after nearly having to close its doors, Buffalo Street Books has good news to report. In an update this week, store officials report the bookstore "has experienced a steady upward trend in sales and community involvement."

In 2017, the community-owned Buffalo Street Books nearly closed after revealing it was in the midst of a serious financial crisis. But, with strong community support, fresh ideas and fundraising, the store was able to survive. A year later, in 2018, board president Rob Vanderlan characterized the status of the bookstore as both "hopeful and discouraging." Though the book store was making smart decisions and sales were growing, they were still losing money overall.

Today, however, General Manager Lisa Swayze says, "I feel like we've shifted our momentum to be much more future-focused and much more - what store do we want to be? And how do we want it to feel? And what do we want it to be like?"

Swayze said thanks to some strategic decisions and community support, the books are looking better. "We've been in the black most of the year," she said. That's a big shift from where the store was two years ago when it had to raise at least $75,000 just to make it through the holidays.

In a public update Wednesday, Buffalo Street Books said there are now 900 owners, up from about 700 two years ago. Swayze said they have been able to make some smart, strategic decisions this year, including cutting the reading room and reducing the footprint of the store by about 1,200 square feet. That change alone saves them $12,000 per year. And that space does not appear to be missed — they have freshened up the interior to make it brighter, added greenery and cozy nooks, and the shelves are well-stocked.

"A lot of energy has gone into the store this year being in a better place," Swayze said. "It's a constant balancing act still. It's very dependent on the community showing us the support and coming in. But, the ways we're being smart and making better decisions are greatly impacting how well the store's holding up and surviving in the climate."

More: https://ithacavoice.com/2019/11/two-year...re-is-thriving/
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