Filed under: Anarchist Movement, Announcement, Southeast
Long-running radical bookstore and anarchist social center Firestorm, located in so-called Asheville, NC, is relocating and needs your help!
Your friendly neighborhood anarchist bookstore is relocating and needs your help! In early 2023 we will be moving from 610 Haywood Road to 1022 Haywood Road (formerly Dr. Dave’s Automotive). This move will allow our co-operative to resume hosting in-person events and community activities in a COVID-safe(r) way. Better yet, we’ll be partnering with a national loan fund and a local land trust to make the property at 1022 Haywood Road a democratically managed community resource capable of outliving our little bookstore.
From private rental to community ownership
Since our co-op’s start in 2008, we’ve seen occupancy costs rise dramatically and we’ve experienced the precarity of being renters. In 2018, when we stood up to the city in defense of harm reduction services, the Planning Department threatened our landlord in an effort to have us evicted. Thanks to a wave of community support, that didn’t work—but we carried the feeling of vulnerability into 2020, when far-right activists became fixated on our bookstore as part of a national backlash against queer and anti-racist spaces.
Buying a building will help our co-op secure financial stability in the face of ongoing gentrification and remove our dependence on sympathetic landlords. Putting the property into a community trust aligns that need for financial and political autonomy with our vision of a world where land is a common good and not a private investment.
A space with new (and renewed) possibilities!
When the pandemic reached us in 2020, we acted quickly to protect our staff and community, pivoting to virtual events and reconfiguring our space to discourage close contact. With no end of COVID in sight, the physical limitations of our store have been a barrier to getting back to in-person community building. This new space will give us more room to spread out and has roll up glass doors that can be opened seasonally to give the building an open air quality for browsing and gathering. Additionally, we’ll be adding a 350 sf wooden patio and converting part of the parking lot to green space that can be used for programming, pop-ups, and book fairs!
Other features of the new space will include a private community meeting room and accessible parking—two things that Firestorm has never had before. A successful campaign would also allow us to install solar panels sufficient to sustainably generate virtually all our electricity needs on site.
Can we count on you to help us make it real?
Thanks to our friends at Seed Commons, we’ve been able to finance the purchase of property at 1022 Haywood Road, but we need community support to cover our remaining costs to renovate and occupy the space. Your donation can secure a forever home for our queer feminist collective and build an enduring resource in the struggle for collective liberation in Southern Appalachia!
Where is Firestorm moving to?
Our co-operative will be relocating to 1022 Haywood Road, the site of the old Dr. Dave’s Automotive. Like our current location, this is on the land of the Tsalagi / Cherokee.
Why is Firestorm moving? Are you being evicted or forced out by rent hikes?
Our co-op is moving because we had an incredible opportunity to buy a building in the same neighborhood as our current location. We could have continued to operate at 610 Haywood Road—our landlords have actually been very supportive—but being in a building we own and control has a ton of advantages. The move gives us an opportunity to reimagine our activities from the ground up and address a number of “pain points” from our current location. Additionally, ownership of the building will mean we have greater economic and political resilience.
How will the new space be different?
While the building we’ve been in since 2015 is very charming, there are numerous features of 1022 Haywood Road that we’re excited about. The new building will have an extremely open layout, and the addition of roll-up glass doors, a wooden patio, and lots of green space will further allow us to host events that are COVID-safe(r). The new building will also have a private meeting room for community members to use at no cost. Overall, the aesthetic will be less rustic and more industrial, but we think it will be comfortable and appropriate to Firestorm’s vibe/brand/reputation.
Will you still stock my favorite book?
The installation of new, custom fixtures at 1022 Haywood Road means that we will be growing our selection, so if your favorite book is currently on our shelves, you can expect to find it at the new location!
When will Firestorm open in the new location?
We’ll open at 1022 Haywood Road once renovations are completed. Our general contractor believes that this puts us on track for February, 2023, but construction has a way of taking longer than anticipated and there is a lot of red tape associated with remodeling an older building. Until we move, we will continue to operate at 610 Haywood Road.
How will Firestorm use crowdfunding donations?
We have already purchased the property at 1022 Haywood Road, so the money raised by this campaign will be used for renovations and relocation.
If we meet our crowdfunding goal, it will cover the following expenses:
- A 350 sf wooden patio ($7.5k)
- A new, energy efficient HVAC system ($21.5k)
- Moving costs, including closure, contract labor, and vehicle rentals ($6.6k)
- Rooftop solar capable of offsetting 90% of our electricity ($14.4k)
How much did the new building cost and who paid for it? Was it George Soros?
Our co-op purchased 1022 Haywood Road for $450k using money from Seed Commons (seedcommons.org), a national network of locally-managed, non-extractive loan funds. Seed Commons is one of several Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) that focus on funding co-operatives, and we deeply resonate with their anti-capitalist values and emphasis on building democratic economic power in marginalized communities. We became aware of their work when they financed a building purchase for Red Emma’s in Baltimore (waverly.redemmas.org), but they also work with the incredible folks at PODER Emma here in Asheville (poderemma.org).
Bookselling is not a profitable industry and our co-op has always gotten by through a combination of frugality and incredible community support. This project—which would have been far out of reach a few years ago—became possible as a result of that same support. You can find a full breakdown of our costs and funding sources here.
Who will own the property Firestorm is buying?
Although our co-op will own the building at 1022 Haywood Road, we will be donating the land to the Asheville-Buncombe Community Land Trust (abclt.org). This transfer will take place after we have completed construction and will be outlined by a written agreement currently under development.
The Asheville-Buncombe Community Land Trust is a 501c3 that was founded in response to a 2014 report on gentrification and the displacement of Black residents from the East Riverside neighborhood. The organization aims to create affordable residential, commercial, and community spaces with a commitment to racial justice. Land donated by our co-op will be the first commercial property in ABCLT’s trust. We hope it’s just the start!
As anarchists, the private ownership of land does not align with our vision of collective liberation. As non-indigenous people, the ownership of land is inseparable from the historic and ongoing violence of colonialism. We are excited that our purchase of 1022 Haywood Road will remove property from the speculative market and create a permanent community asset!
What happens if Firestorm closes? Who gets to keep the property?
By putting the land at 1022 Haywood Road in trust, our co-op ensures that it will remain under the control of a democratic community institution even if Firestorm ceases to exist. We’ve also taken steps to ensure that the building—having been legally separated from the land—will provide benefits to the community that outlast our co-op.
Keeping the building in the hands of people who share our vision of collective liberation is more important to our co-op than generating a profit. In the event that our closure forces us to sell the building, we are committed to offering a “right of first refusal” to co-operatives in the PODER Emma network, at a cost disconnected from market value. If a sale did generate a financial windfall above and beyond what our co-op owes its creditors, we’re further committed to distributing two thirds of that profit to nonprofit community organizations rather than our member owners.