What is the borrowing period for items?
There is no defined borrowing period for items. As a member you can keep an item for as long or short as you like. If you have a membership that allows you more than one item at a time you could use one check-out credit for short term borrowing, and the other for long term borrowing, but that is just one of many options. Basically how long you keep an item is up to you. To encourage a satisfying experience and a healthy turnover in our circulation we suggest that you store borrowed items in plain sight (don’t put them in your closet!) and return them as soon as they no longer want them.

Are there late fees?
Most of the time an item cannot be late, so no late fees! The exception to this is “personal project/party” days. In this case a small fee will be added to your membership if you exceed your annual limit of days. You can also choose to “level up” and apply your late fees toward a more comprehensive membership level.

I get that items are checked out 1, 2, or 3 at a time –
But what constitutes “1 item”?
The short answer is “it depends”.

In general determining what is one item is pretty straightforward for the luminous collection. One framed print, one hand-thrown platter, one pair of earrings, one sake set, one set of handmade wooden blocks. When there is the potential for confusion there will be a note on the shelf where the items are displayed.

In the helpful collection some items are kept on the shelf as a set, and count as “1 item”, but additional items sometimes needed to fulfill the same task can be added to the set without counting as a separate item. For instance the “layer cake set” generally includes three springform pans and tools for piping frosting, but could optionally include kitchen basics like measuring cups and spoons. However, baking the cake is one “task” and displaying it is another, so a decorative cake stand would count as a second item. This is what those personal project/party days are for!

What happens if I loose an item that I have borrowed?
We ask you to make a good faith effort to find the lost item. In most cases this means we count the item as “checked out” for 2 weeks after you report that it is missing. If it is still missing after 2 weeks we ask that you fill out a “lost item report” giving the circumstances surrounding the loss. This information can help us develop suggestions for how other members can avoid losses. Of course, if the item is lost in your home and it turns up again sometime in the future, please return it to us.

What happens if I damage or break an item that I have borrowed?
As a group, we are committed to being good stewards of the objects in our care and this means extending their useful lives as long as possible. If an item that you have borrowed suffers damage the first thing to do is to stop using it to prevent further damage! Please collect all of the pieces and return them to our store together. One of our fixer fellows will assess the damage and decide whether we have the skills and materials to fix it in-house. Valuable items that are beyond our capabilities to fix are sometimes sent to outside expert craftspeople for repairs.

As with lost items, we ask that users who have experienced significant damage to an item fill out a report. These “damaged item reports” help us prevent damage in the future and anticipate maintenance and repair costs.

I love an item in the collection, can I buy it from you?
We do not sell items out of our collections, but in most cases we can connect you with a great place to purchase an item if that is what you decide is right for you.

This is one way we practice being good neighbors and supporting our local network of independent businesses. Sharing doesn’t work for everyone, or in every circumstance, and we want to do our part to make sure independent stores can keep doing what they do so well.

In the case of items from the luminous collection we can often connect you directly to the maker through etsy. Some items in this collection are one-of-a-kind, but usually the maker is happy to custom create a similar item if you are able to wait.

How do you select items to include in your circulating collections?

All items are of high quality in both materials and workmanship. We use a variety of sources to determine quality, from personal experience to online reviews to Consumer Reports. In addition to quality we pay attention to whether items:

Support life enriching activities.
Support a lifestyle that is light on the earth.
Are small enough to reasonably carry on public transport.
Run on human power, solar, or wind power.

When acquiring new items we make every effort to source them sustainably. We buy many things used and local through craigslist. When we buy new, we love to purchase items for our collections from B Corps and co-operatives!

When selecting art objects we prefer items that:

Were touched/formed by human hands
Were created using human power
Use natural material close to their natural state
Were created by artists who’s statements reflect shared values

We select and acquire art objects through independent artists on etsy.com (a registered B Corp) and through local gallery shows and craft shows.

Why did you choose the name The Community General Store?

Community comes first. Lack of real community is at the root of the epidemic of wasteful consumerism. When we build deep relationships with others, relationships in which we know others and feel known ourselves, we become less susceptible to advertising’s messages of “new and improved” and “never enough”. When we live our lives in communities of care, we are freed to experiment with those lives, and decide for ourselves which things and activities really nourish us.

General is a reminder of what we have in common. As growing, living, human beings in the year 2016 our needs are specific, but also predictable. We need things that help us through life stages (stages like moving into our first apartment, transitioning to parenthood, raising active kids, and retirement). Things that help us through seasonal cycles (Spring gardening and rainy walks, Summer camping trips and backyard parties, Autumn harvests and back-to-school, Winter’s grey chill and sometimes hectic holidays). And as citizens of 2016 we need things that help us through our current consumer-culture bubble. We need deeply satisfying things that nourish us so that we can see through marketing’s thin claims and reconnect with what we deeply value – our communities and our earth.

Store is a place of shared abundance. It is also the activity of stocking that place with goods, and maintaining those goods. It is a reminder that we are storing up our wealth for our neighbors, and the wealth of today for the earthlings of the future.

Are my donations to the Community General Store tax deductible?

The Community General Store is a social enterprise dedicated to the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit. As an organization working for the good of all we gratefully accept community contributions to our endeavor. However, because we are technically a for-profit company these contributions are not tax deductible.

Why did you choose to incorporate the Community General Store as a for-profit company?

We are incredibly inspired by the current global movement to transform all businesses into a force for good. We believe that if, as a society, we put our energy behind this movement the triple bottom line will become the only bottom line within a generation, and amazing good will come of it! We are greatly aided in this endeavor by the path breaking pioneers at organizations like B Corp and the Sharing Economies Law Center. And by businesses like Patagonia, Eileen Fisher, Impact Hub, etsy, and Uncommon Goods, that have been breaking train in front of us. By working through the difficulties of figuring out legal structures and regulatory compliance for our project we will be smoothing the trail for those behind us.

I love this concept, can I volunteer?

One of the perks of membership in The Community General Store is that you are given opportunities to freely share your knowledge, your stuff, and your good vibes with your community. You can contribute your energy and effort by hosting a book group, craft group or skillshare. We also appreciate suggestions for how we could do things better, and shares on social media. Because we are a for profit business we can’t technically have volunteers working for us – so, volunteers here focus on working for one another.

I love this idea, but I find your prices hard to afford. Why are they so high?

Our major expenses are rent for a convenient and highly visible neighborhood location, full time staff paid a living wage, and taxes. We love our non-profit Tool Library compatriots, but our prices are very different from theirs because they often do not have any of those expenses. We believe that membership at CGS is an excellent value when all things are considered. We are also dedicated to making it affordable for as many members of our community as possible. Please check out our limited means membership option, our Artists Residency option, and our fellowships for teachers and fixers.

Our finances are transparent to members and an email of our financial documents can be sent to you upon request.

As an artist I’m concerned that art libraries will reduce my sales and income. What is the Community General Store doing to address this issue?

We are dedicated to creating model that works for all stakeholders, and that definitely includes the artists and craftspeople who create objects in our collections. We have discussed our plans to circulate the art with each artist prior to purchasing their work for the collection. In addition we offer two different ways artists we approach can get a great value out of participating in the Community General Store.

1. Local artists who’s work is included in our collection qualify for a 20% discount on membership. This is in addition to the 10% discount available to members of community tool libraries. When used with money saving in mind, membership can cut down on expenditures quite a bit – especially for artist parents. This option is great for artists who can not produce their work in our space.

2. Local artists can apply to be an Artist-in-Residence at the Community General Store. We accept applications from artists in all disciplines, but this option is particularly great for performing artists.