FLASH MOB DONATE-ATHON: La Commune Cafe and Bookstore

Re-posting this message from the folks over at the budding La Commune Cafe and Bookstore. I believe in these guys and what they’re doing over at Omni Commons and the Bay Area Public School, and think you might too. If you can, help them out today; even better, consider joining The Flock.


We are La Commune, a worker owned café and bookstore.

But not yet. There is still a lot of work to do before we can actually say that we are a worker owned café and bookstore. Currently we are a worker owned bookstore in a big messy room with no plumbing (and believe us, it already took a lot of work to get this far.) We need your help!

Hence, this indiegogo. We are trying to raise funds to give our little café a good start in life, and take care of one or two things our health and fire permit issuing pals have ever so sweetly requested.

Let’s talk a little more about La Commune, before we talk about money.

La Commune is located in the Omni building in North Oakland. A group of ragtag sweethearts with crazy political views moved into this building this summer. They formed the Omni Oakland Commons, a collective of collectives that includes artists, hackers, citizen scientists, dancers, a free university called the Bay Area Public School, a community print studio, a wellness collective, and us, with even more to come.

The idea of La Commune came from a mind melding session (during a full moon!) of David Brazil and Niki Shelley, of the Bay Area Public School. David wanted to support the public school with a bookshop and small press. Niki dreamed of creating a welcoming space for the Omni community and all its neighbors to gather, mingle, talk and break bread together. It wasn’t long before the two dreams became one even bigger and better dream. Then they began looking for the cast they would need to make it a reality. Soon they had rounded up a band of seasoned book and café warriors, Seven Samurai style, to build a café bookstore worthy of the Omni vision: veteran booksellers Owen Hill and Pamela Jackson, and writer and coffee wrangler Steve Orth.

The five of us have been working hard for 5 months to get La Commune off the ground. We’re excited about our project for so many reasons. We’re excited to collaborate with our comrades at the Omni and provide a welcoming and nurturing space for the community. We’re excited to bring good books and coffee to a neighborhood where rising rents are making it impossible for no or low profit businesses like these to survive. We’re excited about the unique space we’ve moved into, and what we can do with it. Here are some specifics of our vision:

The bookstore: we’ll carry new and used books, with an emphasis on literature, poetry, philosophy, radical politics, and other topics close to our collective hearts. We’ll be a general bookstore as well, with a fabulous kids section, cookbooks, urban gardening and DIY, art, science and everything in between. We will buy and trade used books at our buying counter starting Opening Day.

As battle-scarred veterans of the book trade, we’re well aware it’s a tough time to open an independent bookstore. Soon Amazon will be delivering books by drone. With a free cup of coffee. We know this. But we also know our neighborhood needs a bookstore.  In the spirit of mutual support — and in the interest of a thriving world of books and ideas– we’re seeking partnerships with small local presses and distributors, who are also feeling the pinch of online retail. Expect to see a dedicated table for Small Press Distribution in Berkeley and PM Press in Oakland, to start with, with more to follow. In the same spirit we will be hosting regular readings and book parties for local and visiting authors, and instituting a membership program with discounts on books and café fare.

The café : we aim to provide a friendly and  unpretentious alternative to the work station cafés that are popping up around the city: a comfortable space that welcomes the whole neighborhood with affordable coffee and wholesome foods. We’ll start small with coffee, baked goods and sandwiches, but our dreams include soft serve ice cream and kombucha on tap. Really!

Beyond the café bookstore — La Commune at the Omni: Once we have our space fixed up we can’t wait to get started on all the fruitful and mutually supportive collaborations we’re envisioning with other collectives in the Omni. We see La Commune as an integral part of a project much bigger, more ambitious and more amazing than just ourselves: the co-creation of a community and art space in Oakland open to all. We hope La Commune will be a classroom for the Bay Area Public School, a publisher of broadsides, posters, and chapbooks printed out of the Omni basement, an outlet for selling Omni-made wares, and a place for readings, workshops and gatherings of all sorts. But first…

What we’re asking:

Why do we need your money? Great question.

A lot of the stuff that was in our space that looked ready to use turned out to be broken or in violation of numerous city codes. Other stuff just wasn’t there. We had to remove the old bar, because it was rotten underneath, and we’re starting from scratch with the plumbing and electrical. We’re opening the bookstore while still under construction, but we have a lot more to do before we can start serving coffee or food, and some of it is expensive. Here are some of the boring things that we didn’t plan on needing but can’t do without:

  • All new plumbing (ouch)
  • New lighting and electrical wiring
  • Working refrigeration
  • New sinks
  • A new bar
  • Clear glass windows
  • Louis Vitton handbags for our weekend getaways to Napa
  • A washable ceiling to be installed over the food prep area, and food-prep quality flooring.
  • A paint job

We’ve totaled it up to $18,000 (that’s actually without the handbags, folks) and we’re asking you to help! We launched this indiegogo on our bookstore’s opening day, SUNDAY NOV 16 with jazz by Ouroboros and a historic reading by Michael McClure and Diane Di Prima. It was a huge success! We were deeply moved to see this beautiful old building filled with old and new friends. Thanks so much for your support!

We’re currently open noon to five Thursday through Sunday. If you’re in the neighborhood, join us to say hello, hear about our plans for the remodeling, and check out our fine – and growing – stock of new and used books . We’re planning more events over the next couple of months: Please join us and watch for updates!



Other ways to help:

If you can’t contribute money, you can still help! We’re still building our bookstore stock, so if you have quality books to donate or sell, we’d love to hear from you. If you have time on your hands, come help us with dump runs, painting, drywall mounting, and our other dirty jobs. Most important, spread the word about La Commune! Visit, tell your friends, like us on facebook, follow us on twitter and share this indiegogo page.  Thank you, and see you at the Omni!