We are a worker-owned cooperative dedicated to the active promotion of radical/alternative cultures through community networking and the distribution of literature. We hope to create a safe and accessible space for people to take part in an open and empowering community. We actively support politics and lifestyles that we deem as alternative, multicultural, woman-positive, queer-positive, class-conscious, and all the things that promote sustainable community.
The Big Idea specializes in radical and progressive literature that is difficult to find in Pittsburgh. Our focus is on progressive politics, independent publishing and culture, queer politics, feminism, labor, ecology, racial politics, history, sustainability and cooperation. We also carry books without explicit political content, particularly in our used book section, which includes hundreds of previously loved books donated by Pittsburghers. We also carry patches, stickers, posters, locally made bags, T-shirts, and music. All products have an independent or do-it-yourself slant. We also distribute free literature, most of which pertains to local community organizations, events, and projects. We choose our suppliers based on organizational structure (primarily collectives, cooperatives, and independent publishers). Frequently, we accept consignments from local writers, artists, and activists. We are a collectively run, not-for-profit, non-capitalist establishment.
The Big Idea collective began in May of 2001 and in September 2001 joined what was known as the Multi-Tool, a multi-use art and activist space at 724 Wood St. in Wilkinsburg. In February 2004, the collective moved to 504 S. Millvale Ave. in the Bloomfield neighborhood, where it was until we moved around the corner in July 2011. We operate as a physical storefront, and we host and allow others to host events in our space free of charge. We also bring our books out to the community through tabling events such as the Working Class History Conference at Pitt, the Eastern Conference on Workplace Democracy, and the Thomas Merton Center Awards, among others too numerous to count.
In our eleventh year as a bookstore, we expanded into a closed-shop worker-owned cooperative bookstore/café. As a café, we strive to serve food and drinks from local, organic, seasonal, fair trade, or sustainable sources whenever possible. We hope to provide a healthy and socially conscious café alternative in Pittsburgh.
Upon transitioning to our new business structure, we have adopted the worker-owned cooperative model. This structure allows for complete company ownership by workers, and only workers make decisions. We do, however, maintain community participation through our membership program. Consumers may purchase a Big Idea membership at a sliding scale rate based on their income, and such members discounts on books and other perks, including our annual member parties.