Bulldog News officially closed its doors July 31, but there’s a new dog in town. Sifting through what’s left of the store at 116 Fourth Ave. E. in Olympia’s downtown after Bulldog owner Doug Campbell pulled out, a group of concerned citizens is forming an ad-hoc cooperative in an effort to keep the newspaper and magazine store open on their own.

“There’s nowhere else in town to get these kinds of magazines,” explains Antara Brewer, barista at the store’s espresso stand and a board member of the new group that has yet to select a name but has fiddled around with “Doggone News.”

“It’s facetious and temporary,” Neva Reece, one of the organizers, says of the working title. “You know, get your dog-gone news here.”

In addition to mainstream periodicals, Bulldog News carried a variety of political and international publications. If it weren’t for the Bulldog in Olympia, Brewer says, customers would have to go to Seattle to get the Irish Times, for example, or certain gay and lesbian magazines.

At the moment, the store’s shelves stand mostly bare. Reece, Brewer and others are trying to accumulate the $5,000 needed to restock the store by selling memberships. So far, they say, they’ve collected $1,400.

Landlord Sandy Desner is supportive, Reece says.

Two employees currently mind the store on a limited schedule—9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. seven days a week, with slightly extended hours over the weekends. Several former employees are volunteering time to help out.

“We’re re-employing whoever we can,” says Reece. “They’ve shown incredible dedication and commitment.”

Aside from focusing on bringing back the magazines, Reece says, the Doggone News group is working to make the store’s upstairs available for meetings, classes and small events.

“We hope to maintain Internet access,” she says, “and still have espresso and pastries.”

Patrons can use a computer to get on the web for 50 cents for 10 minutes or $3 an hour.

So far, the response from patrons has been encouraging, Reece says.

“We had to slow down our community outreach until we were clear on what we’re actually presenting to the community,” says Reece. “We still have people coming in and joining their friends.”

If Bulldog’s former Olympia outlet successfully reincarnates, it will likely be the first failed store to turn into a cooperative in Olympia’s downtown, according to Dennis Matson, executive director of the Economic Development Council of Thurston County.

“Some area businesses have become private non-profits—Panorama City, for example,” Matson observes, “but that’s probably not analogous.”

The group’s next meeting will be on Aug. 14. Anyone seeking information about the venture can reach Reece at (360) 352-2561 or by e-mail at nevarlene@hotmail.com.

By Kamilla K. McClelland, Business Examiner staff