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Richmond IndyMedia Live! Every Tuesday, 12:30 - 1PM on 97.3 WRIR LP-FM, and streaming online from wrir.org!

Interview :: [none]

Interview with Jonathon Rowland of Paper Street Infoshop

Jonathon Rowland of the new Paper Street Infoshop in Richmond talks about the struggles of single handedly runnning a bookstore, plans for the future and the upcoming collectivisation of the store. Now that you know, the rest is up to you. Go support Paper Street and get involved.
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HOW LONG HAS THE SPACE BEEN OPEN? WHAT ARE THE HOURS AND LOCATION?

The Paper Street Infoshop itself opened on September 2, 2004 after many months of me hoping to open and not being able to get everything together to actually get the doors open to the public. Currently the hours are very limited. There isn't a full staff as of yet, so the shop is open when I can find the time to make it there. Which means that the hours are currently Thursday through Saturday 1 to 7, being the only days I don't work my real job. We're located 2506 West Cary St in an old garage looking building between Robinson and Davis. It's across from the GRTC depot. We don't have sign yet, but if you're looking for us you'll find us. Hopefully in Janaury we'll have the grand opening with balloons and fun stuff and we'll have a sign, a little a-frame outside, and full hours (tentatively Sunday to Thursday 1 to 7 and Friday and Saturday 12 to 9).

WHAT ALL TYPES OF BOOKS ARE BEING CARRIED AT THE STORE? WHAT ELSE DO YOU CURRENTLY CARRY?

Good ones! There's a fair assortment of topics from anarchy, queer, ecology, situationist, world history (Ireland, Latin America, Middle East, Europe, etc), black history, indigenous struggles, independent fiction and poetry, media and art, prisons, feminism/women studies, police/state repression, working class culture, contemporary issues, and so on. I'm looking forward to building up the sections as time and money permits and adding a greater assortment of titles that you won't find at the giant corporate stores.

HOW DID YOU EVER DECIDE ON OPENING A STORE?HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN DISTORING BOOKS PRIOR TO OPENING UP PAPER STREET?
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I've wanted to open a store for a long time. Living in Boston made that almost impossible and sort of unnecessary with the Lucy Parsons Center doing a good job of being a meeting place and infoshop. Baltimore also had a good infoshop that no one really went to. They've now become a place called Red Emma's, which is an infoshop with a cafe, so hopefully they'll be around for awhile.

As for doing distro of books, that's been going on since December 1996. I worked at a comic book store north of Boston, and had been working there for many years and found that we had a useless section of merchandise and asked the owner of the store if I could sell books there. He was okay with it and that's what started what was then called To Whom It May Concern Project. I had a section of shelves at that store until July 2000 when I quit that job and decided to move to Baltimore a few months later.

DO YOU HAVE ANY PRIOR EXPERIENCE WITH WORKING AT A RADICAL BOOKSTORE?

Yes. I volunteered at the Lucy Parsons Center. I did a year of shifts and other work and then helped out with other small things when I left Boston. I never got involved with Black Planet in Baltimore.

WHAT POLITICAL GROUPS HAVE YOU WORKED WITH?COLLECTIVES,ETC?

Eh, political groups. I went to the first NEFAC(NorthEast Federation of Anarcho-Communists) meeting. Wasn't for me. I have nothing with organization and groups and such, but they had too much structure for me. Great people though, and I think they're right on except for the bureaucracy, and our "politics" diverge on some issues not worth getting into here. In Baltimore I was part of a collective called Agitate! We didn't do much other than Agitate other politicos, sell books and records, print a few pamphlets, have discussions with each other, and get hassled by nazi-skins. I do a little bit of work for AK Press. Scanning mostly and I'm putting together a re-print of Alexander Berkman's The Blast right now. Other than that it's all been little more autonomous projects with friends and just helping out different organizations with little things.

WHAT TYPES OF EVENTS HAVE OCCURRED THIS FAR AND WHAT KIND OF PLANS ARE THERE FOR FUTURE EVENTS?

The only event we've had so far is a graffiti and stencil art show that was supposed to happen at 17.5 Ethos Cafe in the bottom, but the building was flooded out, so the event was moved to the shop. On December 10th a punk band from Pittsburgh called Fear is a Mind Killer played.I'm Not really into having shows at the shop, maybe a few small acoustics ones, but nothing regular. We're looking more for having readings, workshops, a movie night, art shows, and other gatherings when ever possible. More of that sort of stuff will start happening when more people are involved and loose ends are tied up.

WHAT ARE THE LONG-TERM PLANS FOR COLLECTIVISING THE STORE AND BRINGING ON MORE STAFFERS?
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I definitely want to make the store a collective of some sort. Not sure of all the logistics yet. I hope it's the type of thing were people can take satisfaction from what they're doing at the store and that some good can come of it, since this world doesn't need another retail outlet. I guess over the next year the aspects of creating a collective from the store will be more solid. I don't think it will ever be complete. My idea of a collective is less static than I think a lot of collectives out there. It will be nice to have input from other people, to have other people's visions added to the project. Immediately, January and February, is when I'm hoping to start building the collective and getting more people involved.

DO YOU THINK A SPACE LIKE THIS CAN SURVIVS IN RICHMOND?

It's hard to say. I haven't done any advertising really, it's been mostly word of mouth and we have odd hours and sometimes even then we're not always open. There was a lot of excitement from people over the two years prior to the store actually opening, so I'm hoping it can survive. I won't be disappointed if it doesn't though. There's really no reason why it shouldn't survive though, well, as long as it's serving a purpose greater than being just another store. Hopefully all the excitement carries over into action and people getting involved and supporting the store in whatever way they can. I'll probably know by summer whether or not the store will outlast its lease.
 
 


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