Fundraising the expansion of Red Emma's, Baltimore's amazing radical bookstore cafe

Red Emma's, Baltimore's astoundingly awesome collectively run radical bookstore/cafe, is having an Indiegogo fundraiser that's gone into its final stretch. Red Emma's has great coffee, is a community hub, and stocks really fabulous books. When I did an event there a few years back, I had a spectacular time. The world's a better place for having Red Emma's in it, which is why I just put $100 into the fundraiser.

We've just signed a lease for the fall of 2013; located at 30 West North Avenue, next door to Liam Flynn's Ale House (itself started by founding Red Emma's collective members!), the new space will be over five times the size of our current location.

We'll be expanding our food operation to a full kitchen, moving beyond our current limited cafe menu to really let some of the culinary talent we've got in the collective shine. And we'll be doing this in a way that makes extensive use of locally sourced agricultural products while keeping prices affordable: healthy, sustainable food should be the norm, not a luxury.

We'll be increasing the footprint of our bookstore sixfold—space constraints alone have prevented us from building the world class selection we've dreamed of, and the new space will make it possible to really build the kind of radical bookstore Baltimore deserves.

Our coffee is about to get a lot more exciting: we're bringing on board new local roaster Thread Coffee as a partner on the new project; not only will we be roasting coffee in-house, but we'll be using directly fair traded coffee from cooperatives in the global South.

The space is going to be far more welcoming; not only are we going to vastly expand the number of seats, we'll also be full-accessible in the new space (a compromise we had to make with our current location that's always been pretty troubling for us as a collective!)!

Plus! The Baltimore Free School is moving with us! The new Red Emma's space will offer a meeting and classroom space coordinated by the BFS collective, allowing us to offer free, year-round educational programming, as well as a space for groups to meet (with optional catering by Red Emma's) for reasonable rates.

Building a Better Red Emma's (Thanks, Christa!)


    1. A bookstore that stocks books about radical politics (usually critical of authority, capitalism, intolerance).

      There are a lot of radical books and other media being produced, but because they’re not successful in the mainstream market, corporate booksellers don’t stock them.  A radical bookstore is kind of a throwback to the days of “real” bookstores, where each store was a local business, stocked with the books which the proprietors and their surrounding community thought were cool.  You know, before Barnes & Noble turned them all into the homogenized equivalent of McDonalds for books.

      The internet technically lets us get any book we want, but the radical bookstore draws people’s attention to books that they probably wouldn’t have ever thought to want otherwise.

  1. “Directly fair traded coffee” sounds good, but usually focuses on direct purchase and on coffee prices. This may or may not actually follow the full principles of fair trade, which also take into account environmental sustainability and social concerns (including democracy and treatment of women).

    1.  Thread Coffee is actually trying to use the term “transparently traded”, because they have similar concerns to what you raised. It’s a collective of 3 people and they travel to each farm they’re going to get coffee from and negotiate prices and make sure it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. Their priority is definitely the treatment and conditions of the coffee growers.

      Fair trade is becoming less useful as a coffee qualifier since they’ve changed a lot of the requirements because places like Starbucks wanted to have fair trade coffee but of course are going to keep using plantations.

  2. I went there once, DYING for a coffee. I charged in and abruptly was dumped onto my face by the last step I didn’t see.  Maybe the new place will not have invisible trip steps for those who are coffee-deprived.  I later had a coffee from there. It was delicious.  I will donate now.
    The end.

  3. At the risk of hijack, London England’s oldest radical bookshop, Freedom Press, was firebombed last night (probably by fascists against whom the radical left in London is instrumental in organising).

    From their twitter (@Freedom_Paper): “We are setting up a donation page. In the meanwhile, anyone who wants to donate can do so by ordering a book/s through the  website and emailing us at to let us know that your purchase was a donation. Please share!”

    Now to kick in to Red Emma’s  :-)

    PS: Nobody hurt, but stock and archives destroyed and damage and a lot of cleanup needed.

  4. If you happen to be there the first Thursday of the month in the spring or summer, walk 1 block south and west to Mt Vernon park (look for the Washington Monument) for a free concert in the park, sponsored by (local listener supported radio station featuring local and national indie rock and other non-corporate radio tunes).  Food vendors, drinks, beer…

    Then walk 1 block north to The Helmand for dinner.  Good times.

  5. Red Emmas folks are awesome people. They helped organize Occupy Baltimore to make it one of the most peaceful and organized protests in the country. They run an excellent music series at 2640 Space, featuring jazz, theater, dance, indie bands, and heaps of experimental music. They really do deserve the new location on North Avenue, a place where the city is encouraging more growth in the arts.

    (Full disclosure: I ran a DnD session for one of Red Emmas’ crew for over a year. She’s a spectacular individual.)

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