This week’s indie retailer feature is on the Firestorm Books & Coffee worker-owned cooperative, representing our wares to the communities of Asheville, North Carolina.
Email interview with Firestorm co-creator Libertie Valance
Tell us a bit about your shop!
Firestorm Books & Coffee is a worker-owned and operated enterprise dedicated to the creation of a world in which individuals have the autonomy, knowledge and resources to create fulfilling lives and communities free of oppression.
Our mission is to demonstrate the feasibility and desirability of a workplace based on free cooperation.
We seek to sustain and nourish our collective through fulfilling work, personal empowerment and equitable compensation while providing a hub for anarchist thought and culture in WNC.
We opened Firestorm Books & Coffee in May of 2008 and in 2014 we moved our project from its original location in Downtown Asheville to a larger storefront on Haywood Road in West Asheville. At 610 Haywood Road you’ll find a unique blend of off-beat, underground and independently published materials.
Additionally, we host a wide range of events, workshops, film screenings, fundraisers and presentations. Our vegan cafe offers an extensive selection of organic and fairly-traded espressos and teas, complimented by delicious snacks made locally.
Our co-operative operates without bosses or supervisors, relying instead on well developed team structures.
Decision making is achieved “horizontally,” using a formal consensus process in which each participant has equal voice. This collaborative environment creates a more empowering and enjoyable workplace while strengthening the business itself.
The ownership structure we require precludes us from applying for 501(c)3 nonprofit status; however, we are committed to a not-for-profit model and we will reinvest 100% of our earnings in the community once we are able to sustain our labor at the equivalent of a livable wage.
What’s your origin story with indie comics?
Many of us come to indie comics through zine culture and DIY publishing.
We stock a wide range of zines and, over the years, have had zinesters and illustrators in our collective.
What makes your shop unique?
We’re one of the only collectively-run radical bookstores in the Southeast.
As a majority queer and femme team, we hold space for many folx whose identities haven’t been well represented in publishing.
How has your audience been responding to Silver Sprocket’s catalog?
We get a lot of love for Silver Sprocket books and merch.
When we go to conferences or table at shows, stickers by Jenn Woodall, Nation of Amanda, and Michael Sweater are always the first things to sell out.
We put copies of Your Black Friend, GIRLS, and Please Destroy My Enemies right by the register where people can ooh and ah over them.
Any (non-Silver Sprocket) comics you’d recommend that our fans should check out?
I’ve loved the work of Peter Kuper (Fight Fascism!, The System), Christopher Cardinale (Which Side Are You On?, Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush), and zinester Monica Gallagher (Go for the Eyes, Boobage).
Silver Sprocket fans would also probably enjoy Hazel Newlevant’s Chainmail Bikini: The Anthology of Women Gamers.