Where Neighbors Unite With Books

At Buffalo Street Books, community members can purchase new releases — and also part of the store. As a cooperatively owned bookstore, Buffalo Street Books is owned by nearly 700 community members. These collective owners can serve on its executive board, receive special benefits, and collect a year-end dividend of the bookstore’s profits.

The books reflect local flavors and interests: a larger section on the environment, with special attention to fracking and farming; more books from regional authors; a shelf on local destinations like the Finger Lakes. This hyper-local approach brings economic benefits to the community, says General Manager Asha Sanaker. Her unrestrained hair curls into an auburn mane that shapes her bare face and clear blue eyes, which don’t break eye contact. “There’s so many towns in Upstate that have been gutted by big box stores,” says Sanaker. “I think people are paying more and more attention to shopping locally, thinking, ‘If I don’t shop in these places then they will go away and is that the kind of town I want to live in?’”
As the Friday afternoon waned on, customers continue rotating through. A white-haired gentleman wearing a navy ballcap dotted with “Bernie 2016” opens a book for a blonde elementary-aged child. Three college-aged women dressed in bohemian clothes wander through the shop in a clump. Ithaca’s book-loving community embraces the store’s author speakers, meditation sessions, and book clubs. Sanaker says the store encourages event ideas from the community including a recent idea for an annual poetry slam.

More information:

Where to go: Dewitt Mall, 215 N Cayuga St., Ithaca

Website: www.buffalostreetbooks.com

What to drink here: French pressed organic Fair Trade Colombian beans, spiked with whisky.  

Why: To find the perfect gift for that special someone you met at a Bernie rally/fracking protest/cheese-making seminar.

Prices: $$