The Bloom Collective Moves Downtown: Grand Re-Opening March 9
The Bloom Collective, Grand Rapids’ only infoshop, is scheduled to reopen from a winter hiatus March 9th in a new location downtown. The collective will now be operating out of 8 Jefferson SE, immediately adjacent to the hyper-local, worker-run Bartertown Diner, and it’s soon-to-be sisters, Cult Pizza and Bread Square.
During their grand opening, the infoshop will host an open house and fundraiser to celebrate the move, featuring readings of radical poetry and literature, food, activities, and music. This marks the second move for the Bloom since they originally opened on Wealthy Street in mid 2007. For the past few years the collective has been struggling to get and keep community attention in the basement of Steepletown Neighborhood Services, a building owned by the Catholic church on the west side of the city. Indeed, many community members lost track of The Bloom after the gentrification on Wealthy made impossible financial demands on the anti-commercial enterprise. The current move is made possible by a partnership between the infoshop and the worker-run restaurants surrounding it.
The Bloom recently announced on their Facebook page a successful fundraising effort to get a year’s worth of rent in the bank prior to reopening. This suggest strong support for this rare institution, as the infoshop remains an “unofficial” non-profit organization, relying completely on donations to stay afloat.
Still many in the community are unfamiliar with what an infoshop actually is and what role they play in modern society. The Bloom states on their website that their lending library has over 3000 materials and they “believe sharing [their] collection of resources locally is one of the many ways to inspire change and promote equality globally.” Further, the website explains that the collective operates on consensus, meaning there are no leaders or bosses, and they focus their work around four Points of Unity, which include “a very clear rejection of capitalism, imperialism, institutions and governments that promote oppression (and) all forms and systems of domination and discrimination.” Additionally, the infoshop gives “a call to direct action and civil disobedience,” and utilizes “an organizational philosophy based on decentralization and autonomy.”
The Bloom Collective, and infoshops in general, seek to be both a resource for activists in the community as well as an entry point for folks to become more politically aware and involved. This includes the books and DVDs, but they will also carry radical stickers, posters and are one of the few places to stock a zine library. The Bloom has partnered with other community organizations in a variety of fashions. Food justice group Our Kitchen Table has shared the space with the Bloom for years, and other labor, environmental, and educational groups have used the space for meetings and classes. The Bloom does not support any political parties, but they have offered critiques of local politicians and initiatives, mostly through events organized in the space. Regular movie screenings have also been a mainstay in the infoshop’s history, typically featuring provocative political documentaries.
Infoshops have a history of being targeted by right-wing and racist organizations, and well as police and governments for their radical activities and
community influence, causing a need for a certain amount of security around membership and the physical space itself. The Freedom bookshop in England was recently firebombed, while the Long Haul infoshop in Berkley CA (publisher of Slingshot!) was illegally raided by police a few years back; even the Bloom faced break-ins and threats while on Wealthy St.
The Bloom is completely volunteer run and has had spotty hours in the past as a result. The collective is counting on the more accessible location mobilizing
volunteers to help keep the shop open for more regular hours. Until the gathering on March 9th, potential patrons can get in touch with the infoshop through their Facebook page, (www.facebook.com/bloomcollectivegr), by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or on their website, www.thebloomcollective.org, where users can sign up to volunteer or donate.