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7 employees of Raven Book Store purchase half of store’s ownership interest

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The ownership structure of Lawrence’s Raven Book Store — fresh off an August move to its new Massachusetts Street home — expanded Monday, owner Danny Caine announced.

But perhaps not in the traditional way a business typically changes its construction.

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Caine, borrowing a 2018 idea from Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Massachusetts, announced he has loaned seven of his employees the money to purchase half of the store. Both the move and the financing structure, Caine said in a news release, will allow for the new employee-owners to have a greater interest in their profession without the need to immediately pay out of their own pockets.

“Without the booksellers, there is no Raven. Now the ownership structure of the store better reflects that reality,” said Caine, who has owned the store since 2017. “Too often the cost of buying a store is a barrier to career advancement in the bookselling world. This model of purchase agreement ensures that talented booksellers can earn a stake in their store and make a career of bookselling without large initial investments.”

The seven new employee-owners will add a combined 70 years of bookselling experience at the Raven to the store’s ownership team. Joining Caine are booksellers Kelly Barth, Mary Wahlmeier Bracciano, Jack Hawthorn, Nikita Imafidon, Chris Luxem, Hannah Reidell, and Sarah Young.

Caine’s loan will be repaid out of future store profits, the release said.

Carter Gaskins/The Lawrence Times The interior of the new Raven Book Store on Aug. 20, 2021. Most of the bookshelves were custom built to the store’s specifications, and the tin ceiling was restored after a fire at the building in 2019.

“After all the splinters, paper cuts, and joys of the Raven since 1997—both large and small—it feels so satisfying to know that a part of it all belongs to me,” Barth, a 24-year Raven veteran, said in the release.

Imafidon, another new employee-owner, said being a part of the Raven has always “felt like working with a community, and now to have a part of the business excites me for the future of bookselling.”

“It feels great to be a part of a store that has the heart of the sellers who run it and the community behind it, triumphs, flaws, and all, together at the helm,” Imafidon said.

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After 34 years in business at its founding location on East Seventh Street, Caine in 2020 signed a letter of intent to take over the store’s new space at 809 Massachusetts St. — which formerly housed Blade and Timber, an axe-throwing business destroyed by a fire in October 2019.

Construction delays brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic slowed the renovation process and efforts to move the store’s collection of over 13,000 books and four computer systems up and over a block to the heart of downtown Lawrence, but the Raven officially celebrated its new home in a soft opening Aug. 21.

“This is our choice, and this is the right move for this business and this group of people,” Caine said in August. “I think in a lot of ways, working at the Raven will be a more comfortable thing, and hopefully shopping in the Raven will be the same.”

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Conner Mitchell (he/him), reporter, can be reached at cmitchell (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com or 785-435-9264. If you have sensitive information to send Conner, please email connermitchell (at) protonmail (dot) com. Read more of his work for the Times here.

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