History of SCW | Syracuse Cultural Workers

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History of SCW

SCW Founders
SCW Founders Jack Manno, Jan Phillips, Dik Cool, Linda Perla & Karen Kerney. July 1982. Photo by Ruth Putter.

You may be wondering just where SCW came from anyway! SCW was founded in order to continue publishing the Peace Calendar, which had been founded and coordinated by Dik Cool while on staff at the Syracuse Peace Council (SPC). Dik began the Peace Calendar with the 1972 edition (see the excellent history by Linda Perla in the 1996 Peace Calendar);
the first 11 editions (through the 1982 American Myths) were
published by SPC. In July 1982 the SPC Steering Committee decided not to do another edition. Dik and four others (Karen Kerney, Linda Perla, Jack Manno and Jan Phillips) decided they wanted to continue the tradition and SCW was born!

The Grassroots/Dandelion Collective’s houses (102 & 104 Avondale Place) provided the first offices for SCW. Dandelion (Karen Mihalyi’s) was SCW’s first home ($50/month rent!); this same building in 1972 gave birth to the Women’s Information Center, one of the oldest, locally-based women’s centers in the US. After 6 months SCW moved to “more spacious quarters” in Grassroots where Dik and Linda Perla lived. By 1985 SCW had taken over Grassroots’ first floor so we moved to the second floor of the Women’s Information Center at 601 Allen St. We moved to 1419 E. Fayette Street in 1987. This move wasn’t easy ­but that’s another story.

SCW Old Building
SCW's home from 1987-2002. The upstairs walls were compressing from the weight of the stored products in the attic! We got out just in time!

SCW’s growth from 1982-87 was phenomenal and much too fast. We had virtually no capitalization, no business knowledge, and assumed that rapidly increasing income meant we were doing fine. Unfortunately, expenses were increasing at an even faster pace. By 1988 SCW was, on paper, bankrupt. Dik made the incredibly difficult decision to keep the doors open and began an intensive self-education process in business management. By late 1989 the staff was reduced from 14 to 5 and all projects outside the core publishing business were eliminated.

From 1989-91 SCW struggled to survive, finally turning a small corner in 1992. Through the rest of the decade, SCW managed to make a small profit most years, but was unable to pay down its sizable debts or sustain an increase in sales. Finally, in catalog year 1998-99, the tide turned.

The addition of several key staff (Karen Kerney, Donna Tarbania, John Faley), a larger format catalog with the addition of 8 more pages in 1999/2000, renewed attention to defining and building up our customer base, and several strong products (notably, How to Build Community) combined to produce a remarkable financial improvement. By the summer of 2002 we were sufficiently stable to move to a commercial building (at 400 Lodi St.) with warehouse and store space.

In 2005 we expanded the picking/scale area in the warehouse and Dik purchased the commercial building at 505 Hawley. This was immediately used for warehouse storage and in 2007 became home to ArtRage, The Norton Putter Gallery. In 2008, the picking space at 400 Lodi was expanded and re-configured for what we hope is the final time.