June 01, 2020
Sarah Blagg ’03 started joking with her friend and eventual business partner, Randi Hewit, in early 2017 about building a feminist clubhouse. On the heels of the Women’s March on Washington, they pondered how to carve a space in downtown Corning, New York, for other feminists — young and old — to visit, gather as a community and encourage social action.
“We felt like our activism deserved a headquarters,” Blagg says. “We’ve always felt like the mission — to create a feminist future — deserved space on ‘Main Street,’ or in our case, Corning’s historic Market Street.”
After several conversations, clubhouse banter evolved into a bookstore blueprint — kicked off by Googling “how to open a bookstore.” With a few keystrokes and plenty of additional research, the two friends were on their way to creating Card Carrying Books & Gifts, which officially opened its doors to the public on Sept. 5, 2017.
“A feminist future is what we hope for and what we believe in,” says Blagg. “Independent bookstores have always been associated with community-building and education, so that seemed like a great fit.”
Card Carrying partners with Corning’s annual Pride event to celebrate the LGBTQ community, and produces The Feminist Airhorn, a podcast that highlights feminist issues, female friendships, woman leaders, literature and more. The store also serves as the meeting space — or clubhouse — for Corning’s Girl Gang, a group organized by Blagg that inspires young women to reach their highest potential.
Opening a politically motivated for-profit business meant that Blagg and Hewit immediately were able to give voice to the progressive ideas they saw growing in their community.
“One of the most important things I learned at Susquehanna was the value of stories and the difference you can make when you share them,” Blagg says.
As a student at Susquehanna, she studied theatre with an emphasis in stage management.
“Theatre teaches you organization, movement, voice projection, teamwork and vulnerability. It teaches you to trust your instincts, to lead with enthusiasm and to live in the moment,” Blagg says. “I’m incredibly adaptable. I value change. I can talk about any topic with anyone.”
Blagg adds, “I’m so glad I chose Susquehanna. I wouldn’t trade my years there for anything.” —Logan Sweet ’15