I started Bennett’s Books with a simple goal: to help make the world a better place. With the exception of a few part time and short-lived gigs working in restaurants, the vast majority of my adult life has been dedicated to service - either as an educator, working or volunteering for non-profits, or via my service in the United States Coast Guard. Considering that, becoming an entrepreneur might seem somewhat out of character for me; why would a person with very little interest in money or personal wealth start a business? The thing is, Bennett’s Books is not now, nor was it ever supposed to be, a profit-driven endeavor; as stated, the goal of Bennett’s Books is to help make the world a better place - not only as a bookstore but a safe and welcoming place for all people.
Having spent so much time in the nonprofit world, I saw with great clarity the biggest challenge that almost all nonprofits face: lack of funding. So many organizations are out there attempting to do good work but with limited funding available, worthy organizations and groups end up competing against each other for scarce resources. Having dealt with that firsthand, I came up with the idea of Bennett’s Books - a business that would directly serve its community (and, ideally, help to build a new economic paradigm based on cooperation over competition). Specifically, the plan is for Bennett’s Books to operate as a (somewhat) traditional business but a business where all profits would go back to the community. The inspiration for this largely came from the Newman’s Own model but unlike that business, the goal of Bennett’s Books is to invest in and be an active part our specific community (in this case, Deep River, Connecticut and the Lower Connecticut River Valley).
Unfortunately, although I believe that the model of Bennett’s Books is sound, sustainably realizing its vision has been exceedingly difficult. The reasons are myriad, not the least of which being that fewer and fewer people are reading (a tragedy in and of itself) but our biggest barrier to success is the fact that, by necessity, we are a part-time bookstore. What I mean by that is that so far, in order to keep the bookstore open (pay the rent, utilities, insurance), I need to work other jobs and the time I spend at those other jobs is time that the bookstore is not open. As such, in order to continue operating, last year Bennett’s Books launched our Community Supported Bookstore program (CSB). Similar to community supported agriculture, people that sign up for our CSB become bookstore members and receive benefits throughout the year in return. This program is the only such program program In Connecticut and one of only a few in the entire country. So far it has been relatively successful but if the bookstore is going to stay open we need (a lot) more members.
I have the put the vast majority of my time and effort over the last three years into building Bennett’s Books and using it as tool to help our community and I’m committed to continuing this for as long as I can. Unfortunately, without help I will not be able to sustain the endeavor for much longer - specifically, without in an influx of support (in the form of new members) the bookstore will have to close sometime this year. Considering the state of the world, especially the concentration of wealth into fewer and fewer hands, I believe the loss of Bennett’s Books would be a true shame. As such, I’m asking you for your help. If you believe in or support the vision for Bennett’s Books, please become a member - not only will I be eternally grateful, you’ll be investing in a better future for all of us.