Community Responds to Help Wild Iris Continue

Wild Iris Books has always seen itself as more than a business, with a commitment to fostering community awareness of feminist topics. Now, the community following that Wild Iris has generated is helping the business survive at a time when its future was in doubt.

Responding to a recent plea for help, supporters donated $4,000 in a “20 for 20” campaign that asked supporters to donate $20 for the 20 years of the store’s history. In addition, new volunteers are stepping forward to help the store.

What’s more, Wild Iris has found a new location, next to like-minded businesses.

Wild Iris has rented space at 22 SE Fifth Ave., where it will share a courtyard with Citizens Co-Op and the Civic Media Center. The move should be complete by February.

Three challenges put the future of Wild Iris, one of 12 remaining feminist bookstores in the country, in doubt.

First, the landlord at its longtime location, 802 W. University Ave., sought a 50 percent increase to renew the lease.

Second, Cafe Colette, located in the back half of the store, closed.

Third, bookstore sales are down nationally, due to competition from Internet sellers and electronic books.

“Sometimes things that start out horribly turn out for the best,” says co-owner Erica Merrell. “I’m glad we asked for support. Too often, something closes, and people say that they wish they had known that it needed help.”

Wild Iris’ support system includes more than 1,000 Facebook followers and a list of 1,300 to whom it sends weekly emails, Merrell says.

With the move, Wild Iris will continue to host various events, including “open mic” evenings at which people share poetry and music and tell stories. The store also will continue to host appearances by local authors and debates on social issues.

Wild Iris provides meeting space for groups supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and pagan causes as well, Merrell says. “We’ve always provided a safe place that celebrates creativeness and diversity.”

Co-owner Cheryl Calhoun, who teaches technology at Santa Fe College, is coordinating the expansion of the store’s offering of electronic books, including textbooks.


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