The iconic Olympia bookstore, Orca Books, will be expanding its ownership to the community as it transitions into a cooperative business model. The staff, along with current owner Linda Berensten, have been working with the Northwest Cooperative Development Center (NWCDC) to create a plan for the conversion which will occur over the next six months. Orca Books Cooperative was officially incorporated on April 17, 2019 and will be launching its membership drive at Co-opatopia on April 27th during the Spring Arts Walk.
The bookstore has been a community space for 27 years—not only for author events and storytimes—but for meetings, first dates, and taking refuge from the rain. Orca has won countless community awards for “Best Bookstore,” and has offered donations and support to local schools, non-profits, and arts’ organizations. A huge part of our business model revolves around evaluating and redistributing used books from all over the globe and literary spectrum. Orca believes that buying and trading used books is community recycling at its best. Billy Frank Jr. called Orca Books “the life of Olympia,” and the staff at Orca are deeply committed to carrying the legacy of Orca Books onward.
Linda Berensten, the current owner, says: “My wish is for Orca to continue, and for me to still be a part of it, but I’m looking forward to having more time to read, travel, and be a grandma.”
Orca Books Co-op seeks to be a multi-stakeholder co-op with four membership classes: Basic Consumer, Low-Income Consumer, Worker, and Organizational. Each member will pay a membership fee which will provide certain benefits, discounts, and voting rights. There will be a board of directors which will consist of member-owners.
John McNamara, with the NWCDC, noted that “co-ops offer long-term stability to businesses that help define a community. Olympia has become a leader in the national co-op community over the last five years. Orca Books offers the community a chance to keep an anchor institution downtown that helps define Olympia’s identity and continue to build a resilient cooperative economy for our community.”