Main fundraiser photo

The People's Co-op Bookstore: 75 for 75!

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As many of you know, we have been closed for a few weeks now, and as has happened to the bookstore in the past, precarity looms again in terms of our future. The store was struggling to survive even before the COVID-19 crisis hit. Sales had been improving—an encouraging sign—but not enough to cover our monthly expenses. The month before COVID-19 struck we organized a series of meetings to examine the future of the business. And then the pandemic hit, forcing us shut. Now, to put it mildly, we really need your help.

We have laid off our one staff member, and the rent is unpaid. We have come close to shutting down before, and are hoping through this fundraiser to avoid such an outcome. We have been meeting for many weeks now, going over numbers and possibilities for overcoming this most recent challenge as well as discussing what our future is, and the picture in terms of the times of pandemic bleak. At the same time, we see in our anniversary year a chance to build some stability back into our day-to-day operations, and to plan for the future.

We need a means to provide short-term economic viability as well as long-term stability. We have some great ideas for how to continue our tradition of service, and we are turning again to you for support in our campaign to raise “75 for 75”: $75,000 towards the next 75 years. But before we get to those 75 years, we need to get through the next seven and a half months.

Photo: current PCB storefront


The People’s Co-op Bookstore is Vancouver’s—and Canada’s—oldest independent bookstore. Founded in 1945, this summer marks our 75th anniversary. Our success is in large part due to the community support we’ve received over these past decades. We are taking the auspicious day of May 1st to launch this appeal to our community whose solidarity has seen us through similar crises in the past.

Seventy-five years ago, a coalition of social, political, and labour activists came together to establish the People's Co-operative Bookstore Association. The People's Co-op Bookstore would offer books, and perspectives, that were starting to be marginalized by Cold War politics, and it would be member run—owned and operated by its own customers. It continues today as the oldest independent bookstore in the country, and one of the oldest on the continent.

Throughout its history, part of the People's Co-op Bookstore’s role has been to offer a geographic focal point of the left-progressive community. Always more than a place to buy books, it was also a place to gather, discuss, become exposed to new ideas and issues, and learn. Quoting an original leaflet of the bookstore, the purpose of the bookstore was to be “more than just a bookselling business”, but also a place that would “stimulate the circulation of books that are socially significant.”

Photo: PCB (sign and awning mid-block), c. early 1970s on West Pender St. (Source: City of Vancouver Archives)

➤ For 75 years now, the People's Co-op Bookstore has been offering a range of new books in every genre, offering socially and politically transformative perspectives and visions that are relevant to readers' lives.

➤ Ten years ago, the People's Co-op added used books, enabling the store to offer an inventory that is broader and deeper than ever before. Almost half the store's sales now come from used books. The range and depth of our used book inventory is one of the store's strongest draws. The People's Co-op has become a browser's delight, reflecting the diversity of the interests and perspectives of our customers and members.

➤ Throughout its history, the People's Co-op has been an important venue in the city for literary events, poetry readings, book launches, and book discussion groups. Some notable examples from this past year include: George Bowering reading from his new book, Lisa Robertson launching her new book The Baudelaire Fractal, the new issue launch of Some poetry journal, Chris Turnbull reading with Renee Saklikar, Erica Lagalisse presenting from her recent book, Occult Features of Anarchism; and local publisher Nomado celebrating its 50th anniversary, among many more.

➤ The store is entirely run as a cooperative. As such the store sees our members as a vital part of our community. Our volunteers help out in the day-to-day running of the store, as well as upkeep and cleaning, cycling through of books, and supporting our community programs. All of this is run out of our current location on Commercial Drive in Vancouver.

Photo: Store interior


1. Weathering this crisis.
Immediate financial needs will be met, at which point we can shift toward future planning:

2. Store improvements.

Yes, it's tough to operate a bookstore in contemporary high-rent Vancouver. But it can be done. One way to respond to the high rents is to make better use of the space.

➤ The Co-op desperately needs to invest in some store improvements. The paint job dates from our 50th anniversary.

➤ Shelving needs to be improved, with new shelving built and acquired, to make better use of the costly space.

➤ A purpose-built window display will help us draw more customers.

➤ The lighting needs further improvement, wiring revamped, and ceiling tiles need to be replaced.

3. More, better, new books
Most of all, the People's Co-op simply needs to expand its inventory of new titles, particularly in the area of children's books. Despite significantly increasing our new book purchases, and adding significantly to our inventory, we are simply not able to respond to many of our customers' requests and title suggestions.

The store lives from month to month, purchasing books as the pressures from the rent and the cash flow permit. We need working capital to meet members' and customers' expectations of their bookstore.

4. Technological innovation and expansion
The People's Co-op Bookstore needs to put some time and resources into our internet presence. We are looking to embrace the aspects of online technology that will allow us to better communicate with our members and customers.We are hoping to create a proper website, and to expand our internet commerce capabilities (including our growing antiquarian/specialist book sales via Abebooks).

5. An Event Co-ordinator and Special Order Manager
The Co-op eventually hopes to hire a paid event organizer who can also co-ordinate the growing, and increasingly complex, special-order business.

This fundraiser is seen as a means to bring in urgently needed working capital and provide long-term stability to our efforts. Our anniversary lands on June 27, and it would be optimal to have secured the store's future for 2020 (and beyond) by that time. The fundraiser will be open leading up to this date, so help spread the word!

In an effort to show our gratitude to those who contribute, we would like to offer the following premiums:

➤ For a contribution of 20 dollars, you will receive a 10% discount on books bought in the store valid for any one-time purchase.

Note: Please present your receipt from your transaction here when claiming your premium.

➤ For a contribution of 50 dollars, you will receive a 20% discount on books bought in the store valid for any one-time purchase.

Note: Please present your receipt from your transaction here when claiming your premium.

➤ If you contribute 100 dollars or more, we will extend to you a membership in the store (a $25 value) that will give you a 10% discount on books bought in the store for a full year.

Premiums: If you have made a donation of $100 or more, please send us an email ([email redacted]) with "Membership" in the subject line. Attach the emailed receipt for your transaction, and include the following information in the body of the message (required by provincial rules governing co-op membership):

• Name,
• Full mailing address,
• Phone number.

Or, if you prefer, stop by the store and fill out one of our membership forms.

Note: Please present your receipt from your transaction here when claiming your premium.

Donations can also be made in-store!

➤ You can contribute by donating your used books to the People's Co-op Bookstore. Watch for announcements of our annual Labour Day Book Drive, when we pick up your donations. You can also drop these off at the bookstore any time we're open.

➤ You can stop by the store and sign up to be a volunteer or become a member.

➤ You can also help spread the word by passing on this link!

Our online rare and speciality site: AbeBooks




The Georgia Straight took a look at the store’s history on the occasion of our 60th anniversary: LINK 

On behalf of everyone who works to keep The People’s Co-op Bookstore going, we would like to thank you in advance for your time and for your consideration of this fundraiser. If you are new to the store, we look forward to welcoming you to our community! If you are an old friend of the store, we thank you for your continuing attention and support!

Organizer and beneficiary

Sandy Carlyle
Vancouver, BC
Laurel McBride

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