Here There Be Dragons

July 3rd, 2013

An open letter to our community

Here There Be Dragons

Firestorm is a little boat built of many people’s dreams. As we approached, and then passed, our fifth anniversary last May our collective found itself battered by a storm of questions about our future. We felt proud of the work we’d done over the years but dissatisfied with the personal costs that our blend of activism and entrepreneurship had entailed. Faced with the question, “Would you do this for another five years?,” no one in our collective could confidently say “yes.”

This was the context under which we set sail with a strategic planning process in the spring of this year. With help from our friends at The Center for Participatory Change and Mountain Bizworks, we determined that while we remained committed to our foundational principles, our future as a downtown fixture and radical resource space depended on our ability to clarify our mission and undertake significant changes to our operations. In order to achieve this, we considered bringing our little vessel ashore and putting our entire focus into the reorientation of our project; but the benefits of maintaining our existing space, we believe, outweigh the costs of closure for both us and our community. To that end, we are undertaking a major contraction of operations that will allow us create the space needed to plan for our future.

We’ve trimmed more than just the sails and starting on Monday, July 1st we were operating on new hours -- Monday through Friday, 8am to 6pm and Saturday, 10am to 6pm -- with extended hours for events as needed. We will continue to host meetings, discussions, presentations, film screenings and performances throughout the week with a focus on events that we believe are important and relevant to our community. Our space has been reconfigured to reduce the labor requirements for daily operations, notably eliminating our Patton Avenue entrance. As a cafe, we will cease to produce a lunch menu but will continue offering our full array of specialty beverages and house-made vegan baked goods.

Of course we don’t expect members of our community to undertake this journey without the promise of adventure and reward. Our destination is a new space with increased capacity for a bookstore, space to house additional activist projects and broader roles for participation inside and outside of our collective. Ultimately, we believe that Firestorm can -- and must -- be both more sustainable for its workers and more relevant to Asheville’s radical and grassroots communities.

As we sail on through our planning process, input from friends, old and new, is invaluable. Tell us what you think of our progress to this point and where you think our future lies. Ideas, opinions and sea shanties are welcome in person, by email or on the NSA-monitored social network of your choice.

Your friends,
Julie Schneyer, Libertie Valance, Saerah Hughes,
Sprout Hepker, Thistle Pass, Travis Schuett
Firestorm Cafe & Books