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Amazon Bookstore Cooperative corporate records

 Collection
Identifier: Tretter: Collection 15
The collection covers the bookstore's early years operating as a volunteer, then worker-owned collective (1971-1986), through the period covering moves to Harmon Place (mid-1980s), the Chrysalis Building (2001) and 48th Avenue and Chicago Avenue (2006). Though the store closed in 2012, there is little documentation in the collection for the period from 2007 to 2012.

There was no original arrangement of collection materials: the finding aid is arranged into two series: Series 1, Administration, contains materials documenting the daily business of the bookstore, including by-laws, shareholder statements, daily staff logs, staff meeting minutes, personal, customer and business correspondence, promotional flyers, catalogs, financials, photographs, building plans, and ephemera: and Series 2, Amazon Bookstore vs. Amazon.com, containing court depositions, correspondence, meeting minutes, local and national articles and news clippings based on a suit initiated by Amazon Bookstore against Amazon.com in 1999 over name infringement.

Of particular interest, in addition to Amazon law suit materials, is the lengthy and largely complete set of daily store logs from the early 1970s -1980s recording business activity, store operations and personal reflections of women involved in running the bookstore. Most of these logs are numbered: dates are supplied where numbers are not given.

Amazon Bookstore also played an important role promoting activities in the local lesbian and women's community, as reflected in the program flyers in the collection. As a feminist bookstore, Amazon was part of a national network of feminist bookstores producing book and product catalogs. These activities are reflected in the collection of feminist book catalogs and materials concerning the Women In Print Conference which the bookstore sponsored.

Researchers interested bookstore programming and outreach in the 1990s to 2001 should consult the run of News & Notes, the bookstore's monthly newsletters.

Dates

  • 1970-2012

Creator

Language of Materials

Collection material in English

Restrictions on Access

Materials do not circulate, but may be used in the reading room. Materials will be retrieved from and returned to storage areas by staff members.

Restrictions on Use

Please contact staff regarding copyright status of these materials. Researchers may quote from the collection under fair use provisions of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code).

Extent

8 boxes (9.33 cubic feet)

Overview

Collection contains documentation by and about the Amazon Bookstore Cooperative, a feminist women's bookstore founded in Minneapolis in 1970 and for many years the oldest operating women's bookstore in the United States.

Historical Note

The Amazon Bookstore Cooperative, Inc. was founded in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1970 by two women who sold books from the front porch of their home. Their objective was to sell books and materials on the women's liberation movement and women's issues published by women-owned presses. The bookstore was subsequently named the Amazon Bookstore, for the mythological tribe of women warriors.

At its closing in 2012, Amazon Bookstore Cooperative was the oldest independent feminist bookstore in the United States. It was run collectively for the first decade, and underwent a number of changes to the organizational structure during its years of operation. Unlike other women’s bookstores throughout the country, Amazon Bookstore stocked books authored by exclusively women for most of its years of operation. Amazon also promoted lesbian and women’s music and cultural events though tickets sales, readings, classes and promotion of local events. Many women writers, artists, musicians, activists and politicians with national and international reputations appeared at the bookstore, including Gloria Steinem, Audre Lorde, Anne Leibowitz, Rita Mae Brown, Barbara Grier, Allison Bechdel and Meg Christianson. However, the collective continually sought exposure for books and music produced by local artists, specialized publishers and distributors and women of color.

The bookstore's location changed several times. The first commercial storefront opened on 26th and Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis in the mid-1970s. A larger space was acquired in the mid-1980s at Harmon Place near Loring Park in downtown Minneapolis. In 2001, the store moved to the newly constructed Chrysalis Building at 43rd and Chicago Avenue. In 2006, the store moved to its final location at 48th and Chicago Avenue. In 2009, the store was sold and renamed "True Colors Bookstore.” The renamed bookstore closed permanently in February, 2012.

A defining event in the bookstore’s history was a lawsuit initiated in May, 1999 by the Coop's management team against Amazon.com. The lawsuit claimed that Amazon.com had infringed on the Amazon name, confusing longtime bookstore customers and usurping sales. The story of the suit was picked up by the national press, which dubbed it a David and Goliath story. The suit was settled with a confidential financial payment by Amazon.com and an agreement that the bookstore identify as the Amazon Bookstore Cooperative and would change the name if it was sold.

Acquisition Information

The collection is comprised of materials from four separate donations: Dawn Oftedahl (manager 1986-1990), Barb Wieser (manager and owner, 1990-2008) and Ruta Skujins, (owner, 2009-2012, 2016).
Title
Amazon Bookstore Cooperative Corporate Records, 1970-2012
Author
Karen Spilman, Emily Atchison
Date
April 2005
Language of description
Finding aid written in English

Revision Statements

  • July 2012; January 2013; Feburary 2015: Collection processed and EAD updated by Susan Hoffman; additional re-housing by Emily Atchison took placce in 2015 as part of a project financed in part with funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.

Repository Details

Part of the Jean Nickolaus Tretter Collection in GLBT Studies Repository

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