by Radical Press Coffee Collective
If you’ve been into the CMC in the past year, you’ve probably noticed Radical Press, the collectively run coffee shop in the corner. Two years ago, eight friends had a far-fetched dream of a worker-owned coffee shop that would be accountable to and active in the community.
Two years later, our idyllic hopes are becoming practical, malleable realities. In the time since our inception, we’ve faced many difficult decisions ranging from how we can source ethically sound products to how we can avoid acting as agents of gentrification. Several times, we’ve had to say goodbye to beloved team members and had the opportunity to build ties with new ones.
So what’s going on behind the scenes? How well are we achieving our dream?
It’s definitely been a bumpy road. We’re owned and operated by majority women, queer and trans* folks (heck ya!). We are anti-capitalist, non-hierarchical radicals and oh woops, capitalism doesn’t like that very much. This makes it kind of hard to function in a capitalist economy, even with our anti-profit business model (the idea that any “profit” we make after paying ourselves a living wage, would be funneled back into community grassroots projects, like the CMC). It’s hard to explain to the guy in the business suit why we’re not going to kick out the smelly houseless man using the computer, or why we’ve asked the college student making sexist remarks to step outside. It’s been a challenge to keep each other accountable from washing dishes and mopping the floors to keeping up with paperwork. We all respect each other and want to allow each other the room to make mistakes, in the hopes that we can learn and grow. But hey, no one wants to be the boss, and coupled with working for tips only 15-30 hours a week, it can be hard to put our best foot forward. We’ve definitely made mistakes.
Financially, we have had to be more innovative and intentional. We’ve partnered with Groupon as their first anti-profit business to increase sales. We’ve thrown benefits and tabled at the Farmers Market and Labor Daze. In January, we altered our sliding-scale pricing policy to include a Pay-It-Forward Tab. This works by allowing people to purchase our organic coffee for anywhere from fifty cents to two dollars and relying upon the tab to make up the difference. Rather than raise our prices and run the risk of becoming inaccessible to people with less financial ability, we’ve tried to offer more specialty drinks (like pour-overs, and custom pitchers) to increase revenue. We’re being creative and experimental in our endeavor to one day have both a living wage and sliding scale.
Recently, several collective members had to step down and we’ve had no time to find replacements. Coupled with decreasing sales, we’ve decided we need to re-think some things.
For the month of October, we are taking a break and cutting back our store operations to events only, at least until FEST weekend at the end of October. During our break, we’re hoping to work on some larger projects, like delivering ground coffee to downtown offices, and other ideas to bring in revenue outside of the shop. We want to take this time to develop our business model and collective structure and hopefully come back in November. We need your input! What would you like to see? Would you or anyone you know like to be a part of re-building Rad Press? We need help with marketing, we need advice from people who understand business better than us, and collective members interested in working on collective structure. We hope to be around another year, with your support!