For Ward, Rock City’s employees were family, and even though some kind of employee ownership plan had been in the back of her mind as a “nebulous thing,” she recalls, it never seemed like the right time. “As my husband would say, ‘We have to operate in the black.’”In 2010, in the midst of the Great Recession, Patrick passed away. The printed book market was also shrinking, rapidly. “I knew that by myself I couldn’t handle it all,” recounts Ward. She sold the bookstore portion of the business to one of her employees, and continued to run the roastery and café, both of which exceed full-time operations, with the café’s kitchen and bakery serving breakfast and lunch, and hosting live music on weekends. Five years later, things are better for Rock City, though certainly not perfect. And at age 64, Ward is ready to retire. With help from Rob Brown of the Cooperative Development Institute (CDI) in Maine, she is now working on the details of transiting Rock City to worker ownership.
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