Client Focus: Massive Bookshop

Bookstore as Art Project with Social Justice at the Fore 

When Andrew Ritchey began exploring the idea of opening a bookstore, his mind traced out the usual steps: get a lease on a space, buy a lot of books, hire people, etc. However, the traditional path was not for him. He decided on a unique business model, an anti-profit online bookstore, which places his values and social justice first.
Ritchey opened Massive Bookshop in 2020, operating out of his Greenfield home at first, and then in 2022 moving into the Franklin County CDC’s Venture Center. The bookshop’s structure gives him the flexibility to hold a day job delivering mail for the U.S. Postal Service while selling hard-to-find and radical titles to a global market online. He had explored the Franklin County CDC’s business classes several years earlier. “Eventually the reason that I came back here was that the books had just overtaken all of my home,” he said with a laugh. “They were just like stacked up in the dining room and everywhere, and I needed a space.” The ability for him to receive shipments here was also key.
Setting up the business was just a matter of “building a website and establishing accounts with distributors and publishers so that we could fill orders, and then promoting it,” he said. “So the whole business, I started just with a credit card, and there still isn’t very much capital tied up in it, so I could do it forever. I’m not dependent on it, [and] I don’t have employees.” He also hand delivers books locally.
Perhaps the most nontraditional aspect of this business is that he doesn’t earn a salary or make any money from the shop. Profits go to mutual-aid and community-building nonprofits working toward racial justice. From 2020 to 2022, the shop donated $18,000 to such groups. In 2022, he started sending profits to Decarcerate Western Mass, a coalition of people and organizations that came together at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic with the purpose of supporting incarcerated people and addressing the harms of pretrial detention.
His stock of around 1,500 titles includes works from a publisher in Northern Ireland whose books delve into the history of Irish Republicanism and are not for sale anywhere else in the States. His best-selling book is “Blood in My Eye” by George L. Jackson, a Black activist and political prisoner who died in prison in 1971. Ritchey described the book as a touchstone for Black liberation and abolitionist movements today. 
“I definitely feel that it’s important to understand how policing and mass incarceration disproportionately affect non-white people,” he said. “And me being a white person and having a fair amount of privilege…. that’s another aspect of not taking money from the bookstore. Recognizing that I have these skills. I have the ability, I have the resources, I can get a credit card super easily. And I could put all that toward trying to make a cool job for myself; or, I could donate those resources or that time and that effort toward this bigger project of addressing and trying to reduce the harms of mass incarceration and policing.” 
A filmmaker by training, Ritchey sees Massive Bookshop and what it’s trying to achieve as an art project. “It’s like an experiment and an art project in the realm of business.”