(this originally went out via email a while ago)
Our situation is kind of complicated, and has been in flux since August. Pieces of the puzzle keep falling in (and out of) place. I’ve been waiting for things to settle down a bit. I don’t want to be pointlessly confusing. (Heck, I’m confused.)
So, here’s the latest I can tell you. The plan to save the building by going co-op is not happening. We worked on a co-op strategy for some time, and had to come to terms with the fact that a project of this size would take time. Time we don’t have. Unfortunately, I’m not in a financial position to keep the building until a co-op can raise capital and take over. Realizing this, there was an interim plan to have someone else take over the building for a couple of years until a co-op could organize and pull funds together. For various reasons, that wasn’t to be either.
So, much to my disappointment, it has become apparent that selling 274 Garry Street is our best path to the future. I’ve loved the challenge of taking a tumble-down Chinese restaurant on a forgotten downtown street and turning it into the latest incarnation of Winnipeg’s Cultural City Hall. I’m sad, and I’ll be sad for some time. But unlike the City Hall where boring things happen, our City Hall isn’t a building. It’s an attitude. So we’re taking our show on the road.
As I mentioned some time ago, part of this whole plan to re-imagine Aqua Books involves the store/theatre/etc. becoming a non-profit entity. (The co-op was always just going to be about operating the physical space at 274 Garry Street.) A non-profit structure will allow us some flexibility with certain things, including fundraising, grants, liquor license, etc. It also more accurately reflects what we’re about. It’s never been about making money. It’s always been about building community and supporting creativity.
The new non-profit is forming, raising funds, and getting on its feet. (Meet our talented board: http://culturalcityhall.ca/board/) As I sell this building and attempt to pay everything off, the new Winnipeg’s Cultural City Hall Inc. is making plans. We’re looking for a new space to lease. We’re talking about what makes what we do special and how we can grow that. In spite of the sadness of leaving this place I’ve poured my heart and soul into, the new phase seems pretty exciting. We hope to announce our new location at the same time that we announce that 274 Garry Street has been sold. We’ll keep you posted.
That’s us, in a slightly long-winded nutshell. But before you despair that we don’t need your help anymore, I’ve got some good news. There is a lot to be done, even now. Our new space will be a lot smaller, and we certainly won’t have room for all these books. (Right now they’re all half price. Come and buy some!) I still have to get through the next several weeks until we can sell the building. Your continued support is greatly appreciated as we work our way to the Promised Land. (Still have a bit of sand in my mouth at the moment if you catch my drift. Pun intended.)
And as we continue to pull the new entity together, we will let you know how you can help. (We’ll be doing a membership committee and fundraising committee and all those fun things.) Because we understand it’s only going to work with the right people to make it work. And the right people is you. (Or maybe, You is the right people.) If you want to help now, cheques can be made out to Winnipeg’s Cultural City Hall Inc. and dropped off or mailed to the store. The non-profit has its own separate bank account that will be used for the new place. (Again, we’ll provide more details on all of this, early in the new year, I hope.)
Thank you so much for reaching out. And thank you for caring about what we’re doing. All we’ve ever wanted to do is to make Winnipeg a better place. Thanks for feeling the same way.