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Stardust: Looking Back and Moving Forward May 4, 2009

Posted by Galaxy in Uncategorized.
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Craftsbury – the name usually brings forth images of a busy farmer’s market on the Common, a great event at the library, a cup of coffee at Stardust, Sterling students playing frisbee, stopping by the store to pick up essential ingredients, getting gas at the garage, skiing at the Center. Lately though, there has been a lot of discouraging news. The Historic General Store closed, The Inn on the Common closed, Sterling College appears to be in jeopardy, and the Craftsbury Schools have plenty of challenges too.

In the midst of much negative news, I hope to offer something positive, and ask for your help in making it happen. In order for Stardust Books & Cafe to reach its full potential as a vital community space, I am seeking to transition the satellite of The Galaxy Bookshop to a non-profit enterprise.

In 2002 I bought the former Craftsbury library building, and opened Stardust Books. In structuring Stardust as a satellite of The Galaxy Bookshop, I was inspired by the work of my friend Lacey. In the city of Baltimore, Lacey created Youth Entrepreneur Associates which trained teenagers to start and run their own businesses. As a part of this program, the teens opened a coffee bar as part of a community operated non-profit called Village Learning Place. Besides the coffee bar, VLP housed a community library, a learning center that included tutoring and after school enrichment programs, and an outdoor garden.

With the leadership of Diane Morgan, we soon had an eager and hardworking group of founding booksellers who opened Stardust in February of 2003. Since opening, Stardust has employed 26 teen booksellers. It was also the students who added a cafe and used book section. For many, this was their first paid job. At Stardust Books & Cafe they have learned general work skills as well as specific retail, business and entrepreneurial skills including customer service, handling money, computer and phone skills.

I am proud of the place that Stardust Books & Cafe occupies on the Common. Together with Diane and Annie Volmer, and especially for cafe goers, Dale O’Leary, we have created a warm gathering place with good conversation and events, great books and delicious food and coffee. I am incredibly grateful for all of the booksellers and bakers and latte makers who have made it what it is, and to the customers who have supported the business.

At the same time I aware that there is great potential for more to happen at Stardust. I am eager for Stardust to realize this potential. For the past year I have been talking privately about transitioning Stardust to a non-profit, and at the beginning 2009 I began to make those plans public and soliciting input from the greater Stardust community. I feel that by making Stardust a non-profit, the doors will open for more partnerships and programs. A non-profit board can bring new energy and ideas to Stardust in a more effective way than the current operating structure can provide.

In gathering ideas from the Stardust community, there is great interest in providing more activities for young people, a place for kids to gather after school, a place for students at Sterling and students from the Craftsbury Schools to connect, a place for tutoring or workshops, expanding the cafe offerings and expanding the hours that Stardust is open.

It is my belief that the best way to bring these great ideas to fruition is through the formation of a non-profit. I recognize the limits of my own abilities and energy, and would like to open the way for others to bring their energy and talents to this project. Additionally, as a satellite of The Galaxy, Stardust has been to an extent subsidized by Galaxy. As the retail and bookselling world is only getting more challenging, providing financing for Stardust has become a challenge. Were Stardust to become a non-profit, it is my belief that a board could find funding for many of the proposed activities. Additionally, in the context of a non-profit, the bookselling component of Stardust could continue and could provide revenue. The relationship between Galaxy and Stardust would become formal and contractual.

Certainly this is a challenging time both to operate a business or to establish a non-profit. It is my intention to take on the challenge, because I believe Stardust is the kind of place that Craftsbury needs. As it currently exists, it is a place to pick up a birthday gift on a Saturday morning or get a cup of coffee on a cold farmer’s market day, or a place to meet or run into friends on a Wednesday afternoon. Imagine with me, and others who have shared their interests and ideas, what potential there is, and how important it is that we have gathering places in Craftsbury. Again, I express my appreciation to everyone who has contributed to making Stardust what it is so far. Please join us in taking on the challenge of taking Stardust forward to meet the needs and interests of even more people. We need you to spread the word, bring us your ideas, and lend your expertise. Please be in touch with Diane at morgand@vtlink.net or Linda at galaxy@vtlink.net .

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