Meeting Minutes 120814

Seminary Co-op Annual Meeting 2014

December 8, 2014

Harry Davis: Introduced current board members. Year of transition since last meeting in December. Board’s goal is to keep the Co-op the special place it is, unque qualities, balanced with challenges of independent bookstores generally.  Critical issue is leadership – most important agenda item the board has grappled with. Commitete chaired by Art Sussman with board members and other Co-op members. Involved community members in the search and hired Isaacson Miller. Feel good about result – convinced Jeff Deutsch to come here. Has been here only 5 months. 

The University views the Seminary Co-op as important part of University, Hyde Park, and larger Chicago community. Important to acknowledge the University’s support. 

Annual meeting requires quorum of 20 active members.

Jeff Deutsch: Introduced staff leaders of stores.

Tom Flynn: Manager of 57th Books. Physical changes around the store.

Dominique Washington: Children’s manager of 57th Books.

Adam Sonderberg: Manages the Co-op.  

Heather Ahrenholz, inventory manager and buyer at Co-op.  Interested in bringing students back into the store.  

Richard Barnard, financial manager

Alex Houston, marketing manager. Overhauling member engagement, events, and communications.

Jeff: Board was honest about challenges when I came. Last year down 15% in sales. Total operating loss of $300,000, more than last year’s $183K (after inventory adjustment removed).  Amount owned to publishers $500K, down from $800K last year. 

New inventory system, updated signage, clean-up of $70K “dead” books with markdowns (recovered $7K), maintained breadth of titles with well over 100K titles on the shelves.

Thanked Erin Mulrooney for serving as interim director – did a phenomenal job. 

Booksellers we have here are the best in the world. Passion, knowledge of books, and desire to share it with others.

Store made its reputation on the curatorial aspects of bookselling. Crucial that we continue to do that and have the staff to do it – cause for optimism. 

We all have incredible enthusiasm for what we do. This is not a job – it’s a passion. We have desire to share our passion for bookstores as such, and bookstores that take themselves seriously. We’re lucky to be caretakers of this legacy. I commit to all of you that I will be an enthusiast, evangelist and ambassador for who we are and what we do – focusing on preserving what matters about the store. 

We will remain delightfully inefficient when it comes to bookselling, but we will be efficient where it matters. We will remain independent, vital, and relevant to the next generation. 

I’m asking for your help in doing that. We’re all part owners of the store. I want to ask for help from each and every one of you.


What does it mean to be a member-owned co-op?

What does it mean to own stock in the Seminary Co-op?

How can you help build the future?

 Co-op structure is what distinguished this store from any other. We have well over 50K co-op members who are part owners and ambassadors for the store. That will make the difference for making it. 

What can you do? Some have purchased additional shares of stock, and some have donated back credits. But the main thing you can do is buy books. 50K is conservative number of members. Average book is $25. I know you all will buy books in multiple places. What I want you to think about is if you bought one more book here and convinced a friend to do the same, that would be $2.5m in sales. That could double our sales. This is the core group, but if you talk to 5 members and ask the same of them, we can really make a difference. 

Hope this is the continuation of a dialogue with you. That you can share thoughts, opinions, ideas, book recommendations. 


When this building was McGiffert House there was an apartment for university affiliates. Is any use being made of the upper 2 floors, or if not can you get revenue from it. (No, owned by university.)

If I move away, and remain a member of the Co-op, how can I order books? (Can order online and have books shipped. Investing money in website, which is not good right now. People around the world order books from us.)

Say more about ideas for bringing students into the store. (Students are the future of the stores. Want them to build a connection. Alex spending time talking to student groups and working with campus to figure out ways to get in front of students. )

Would we give students a piece of stock? (Most students are familiar with Amazon. Share of stock might help. More important to articulate the value fo a bookstore in the neighborhood.)

What are social media strategies and events that might bring people in? Hyde Park is getting chic and trendy with hot restaurants – should be able to get a share of visitors who are coming here. (Social media wise, doing reasonably well in that department – getting people to look at those pages is challenging. Had student marketing group do some work for us. Did some polling which revealed interesting facts about interest level of students in events. They had lots of ideas about how to reach students. Haven’t had time to try their recommendations yet. Jeff connected with Frank Lloyd Trust, we get discount at their gift shops and they’re giving out coupons at the end of tours. Planning an event with Robie House. Alex was overseeing the social media and that was one of our best features.)

Discount: Problem to wait entire year to get your discount coupon. Can we rethink that? (Active discussion about this.)

Harry: Heard from members last year that we needed a more transparent process for nominating and electing board members. Mark Hansen, chair of membership committee,  worked to put in place a new process.

Mark: Thank Hanna Holborn Gray and Steve Stigler who are retiring. They have been great supporters and defenders of the bookstore and have been important in the leadership of this store during challenging times – grateful for their dedicated and thoughtful service.

Call for nominations in September. Got about 2 dozen high-quality nominations. Great to have so many interested people. Will carry over the nominations and solicit new nominations in the fall.

Committee worked through October to evaluate the people proposed as directors and the people currently on the board who were up for re-election. Sent around biographies of all the candidates.

Julie Getzels and Douglas Sharps nominated as new members.

Bill Sewell nominated to be elected from temporary position.

Mark Hansen, Deborah Epstein, Jack Spicer, Julie Peterson, and nominated for additional terms on the board.

Some people didn’t get request for nominations. Email doesn’t always reach people.

Need to make sure that we have current e-mail information for people.

Slate moved and seconded. 2 abstentions. Slate elected. 

What can we do to get more people excited about the store? (Working to create a sense of community and belonging.)

Is there more going on at point of sale to encourage people to buy more shares?

(Getting better about articulating what it means to be a member.)

Open mic for storytelling is a popular thing among younger people. Maybe we can try something like that. 

What is foot traffic here versus old store? (Challenges at old store when building was under construction. Now that 58th plaza open we’re seeing increase in traffic and café has increased traffic.) 

Is it OK to read books here? (Yes, encouraged.)