EDWARDSVILLE — A local book store wants your help.
AfterWords Books cannot reopen at its new store in Edwardsville until the building is brought up to code. So book store owner LuAnn Locke is soliciting for donations online.
"We're optimistic," she said. "Things are not going to happen as soon as we would have liked, but we're on the campaign for a couple more weeks. We need a little bit more time."
The campaign is on a crowdsourcing website called RocketHub. The website is a recent innovation on the world wide web to seek public support for individual causes, or in Locke's case, her business. She hopes to raise $5,000 within the next two weeks. So far, she has raised more than $1,000.
Her sudden need for financial support began soon earlier this year after she moved her business, which sells mostly used and some new books. She left her previous spot at 231 N. Main St. in Edwardsville because it was more space than she needed. She bought the business two years ago and had noticed that more customers have purchased computer tablets and were buying books that could he read online and has cut into her business. So she wanted a new space that was smaller, more manageable and intimate.
She recently found what she was looking for at a 232 S. Buchanan St., also in Edwardsville, that was zoned for both commercial and residential. She could live upstairs and operate the bookstore on the first floor.
"We jumped at the chance and got everything moved in and applied for a permit with Edwardsville," Locke said. "This space fit the bill perfectly. It has what I had envisioned for this store, high ceilings and hardwood floors and large windows. It is very cozy and comfortable."
She closed the store on North Main Street and moved after she found a tenant to take over her lease. She was preparing to reopen when she ran into problems after a property inspection. In order to secure her business permit, the upstairs residence must include a kitchen. The building currently has a kitchen on the first floor.
She said she was prepared to spend money to update her new building, but is not prepared to finance a new kitchen. Aside from that, Locke also needs to pave her parking lot, install ramps to provide access for those with physical disabilities and install a new door.
"It's been very frustrating running into road blocks," she said. "We assumed that with our business and house here we would have a great little set up to show for it. That's not been the case."
That's when she turned to social media to see if she could raise the money. Aside from the book store's Facebook page, Locke turned to a crowdsourcing website called Kickstarter. The website solicits funding from the public for creative endeavors like art projects, music and self-publishing.
Three weeks later, she found out about RocketHub. She titled her online cause: "AfterWords Books, the little bookstore that could."
Then last month, she heard about how Edwardsville toy store owners had appealed to the public to help raise money on anther crowdsourcing website. That's when she decided to suspend her business' online campaign.
"We wanted to support them," she said. "So we put ours on the back burner."
The toy store, Once Upon A Toy at 2460 Troy Road, were facing a sudden closure after its lender had lost confidence in the business and called in its loan. Store owners Shawnta Ray and her husband Rick Harmom had recently witnessed their other metro-east toy store, LagoonaMagoo Toys in Fairview Heights, go out of business earlier this year.
The couple had owned the toy stores for the past seven years. However, Ray said business has dramatically dropped off since 2008. At one time, she had no problem selling $500 model trains. But over the past five years, nothing priced over $100 has been selling.
"We broke all records early on and had a couple gang-buster years," Ray said. "Then, everything went south, quickly."
"We tried working harder and harder and at some point that wasn't good enough. At some point, no matter how many e-mails or how many game nights we did, our numbers were declining."
Ray said she and her husband did not know what else to do and were planning to close their Edwardsville store. When word of the business' potential closure reached some of their regular customers, an online campaign was formed on another crowdsourcing site, CrowdTilt. After seeking the couple's permission, the grassroots campaign took to the Internet.
"I had nothing to do with it," Ray said. "It was all my customers. It was customer-based."
The online fundraiser sought $76,875 -- $75,000 to pay off the loan to First Mid-Illinois Bank and the rest to cover the website's fees.
Within days, the website had raised more than $82,000.
"It is overwhelming," Ray said. "I'm was just totally on floor about it."
Since Ray's toy store has staved off going out of business, Locke has resumed her online fundraiser on RocketHub. Those who contribute can receive a coffee mug, tote bag or T-shirt, depending on the donation amount.
"I didn't want to look like we were riding on their coattails of success," Locke said. "We didn't say 'this worked for them, let's do it.' That's not what happened at all."
Locke said RocketHub takes 2 percent to 3 percent of the money raised if the beneficiary reaches its goal during a specified time. The website collects 12 percent of the total if the goal is not met.
At the toy store, Ray said she and her husband still have more work to do to keep their doors open.
"This doesn't totally fix up everything," she said. "We still have to sell more toys than we did last year. There is a lot that has to happen for us to make that amount of money to stay open. We may have to move. There are so many things that have to happen. Everything has to go beyond perfect for us to survive."
In the meantime, Locke is awaiting the opportunity to unpack books and open her new store. She said she is thankful for the kindness of strangers who want to support her independent book store.
"Obviously, Edwardsville and Glen Carbon are community driven," she said. "And they have a lot of community support."
Contact reporter Will Buss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2526.