Two months ago, the Monte Cristo Bookshop’s fate was completely up in the air. On August 22nd, it will open its doors as a new nonprofit bookshop.
It was early summer of 2014 when Michael Whitehouse grabbed a three day old paper from his back seat to read. In the business section, an article discussed a bookshop in New London going up for sale because the owners were no longer able to live off the earnings from the store and had to pursue new careers. Michael met with the owners, Chris and Gina, to discuss the possibility of buying the shop. After a couple of days of discussion, Chris called Michael for a fateful conversation, in which he revealed that it had been decided to sell the shop to another bidder. (Wouldn’t be a very dramatic story if it was that simple, would it?)
Michael went off on his merry way, celebrated the birth of his first child Rowan to his lovely wife Amy, and largely put the bookshop out of his mind, until another phone call in early August changed the course of bookshop history in New London forever. It was Chris Jones and he wanted to know if Michael was still interested in the shop.
This time, Chris sent Michael the full financial records to review, and Michael met with Chris and Gina again. As you know, if you are a fan of the Monte Cristo Bookshop, the shop is a wonderful asset to New London. It brings great authors, hosts insightful conversations, and is a cultural resource. It also doesn’t make very much money at all. It makes enough to cover the bills, but not enough to support an owner.
When Michael sat down with Chris and Gina, the conversation came down to one key question: “Are you trying to get money from the shop or are you trying to keep the mission going?” They both immediately replied that the mission was more important. The shop was never about the money, it was always about what they could do for the community. “Good,” answered Michael, “then I have a solution.”
In 2008, Michael oversaw the formation of a nonprofit, volunteer run collective game store in Amherst, Massachusetts known as Worlds Apart Games. The organization exists to this day for the mission of providing a social space for people interested in games and other geeky pursuits. It is entirely volunteer run, and it is self supporting. That same model seemed ideal for Monte Cristo Bookshop as well.
After that meeting, things moved quickly, and on Friday, August 22nd, at 11 AM the Monte Cristo Collective Bookshop will open its doors for the first time. Volunteer run. Nonprofit. A new phase for a cultural institution in the city of New London.
This weekend, we will be celebrating this exciting new transition with a weekend full of activities:
Friday, 5:30 PM - Ribbon cutting with the Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce
Saturday, 2:00 PM - Carol Mon presents A Guide to Networking for Introverts
Sunday, 4:00 PM - Nick Checker reads from his new book SCRATCH
All day Saturday (10-8) and Sunday (12-6), we will have our entire inventory of thousands of used books for sale in a sidewalk sale, accompanied by a number of local artists.