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Specialty Shops: Card Carrying Books & Gifts
Not every small business opens with a values-based mission in mind, but in the fall of 2017, that's just what Card Carrying Books & Gifts did.
After the shocking results of the 2016 election, co-founders Randi Hewit and Sarah Blagg decided they needed a meeting, so they started a Corning chapter of the National Organization of Women. But the monthly NOW Corning Action Team meetings only made them want to do more. They talked of wanting a feminist clubhouse that could be a home base for feminist activism in Corning, but ultimately decided that their mission to create and engage a feminist future was worthy of earning money, so they went in a slightly different direction: an independent, feminist bookstore that would also offer socially progressive gift lines and host regular events with authors, artists, & activists. They wanted the space to be community-minded, so Card Carrying hosts a monthly Parents With Pride peer-support group as well as a youth group called Teen Feminist Circle.
"The Circle (originally called Girl Gang) started because teenage girls were just hanging out at the bookstore a lot, and asking to volunteer, and talking about how much they love it here," Sarah says. "We thought, why not nurture their dedication to the mission and have some fun at the same time?" The Circle has gone bowling to benefit a local nonprofit, hosted a reading of their self-published 'zine RISE UP during the monthly Urban Arts Crawl, and raised money for the National Network of Abortion Funds.
Card Carrying Books & Gifts is also one of the main organizers of the annual Corning Pride Event that debuted in June 2019 to a crowd of about 2000 people from across New York State and upstate Pennsylvania.
The bookstore itself might be small, but their mission to support a feminist future is made larger by their online subscription kit service. People from Massachusetts to Hawaii have received book club kits put together right here in Corning, NY. With four options at three different price points, their subscription kits are an important part of the business for both financial and personal reasons, as it enables them to spread their mission across the country.
Whether they're hosting a postcard writing event, a CRAFTernoon, a book launch, or something else entirely, Card Carrying Books & Gifts is certainly unique in its commitment to a progressive mission and willingness to stay active.