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Beloved SF Bookstore Turns to Direct Sponsorship to Stave Off Closure

How would you like to save an indie SF bookstore from extinction?

Alan Beatts caused much dismay when he announced earlier this month that San Francisco-based Borderlands Books would be closing its doors in March. The city is due to raise the minimum wage later this year, and this niche bookstore simply can’t continue to operate with the higher costs or reduced staff.

Not without your help, at least.


After discussing a number of options and concluding they were unworkable, Beatts announced on the Borderlands store blog last night that he was going to try the one solution which he liked the least: ask for hand outs.

Starting immediately we will be offering paid sponsorships of the store.  Each sponsorship will cost $100 for the year and will need to be renewed every year.  If we get 300 sponsors before March 31st, we will stay open for the remainder of 2015.

Our goal is to gather enough paid sponsors to cover the projected short-fall in income that will be the result of the minimum wage increase in San Francisco.  At the beginning of next year we will again solicit sponsors.  If next year we again reach our goal by March 31st, we will remain open through 2016.  This process will continue each year until we close, either because of a lack of sponsorship or for other reasons.

In addition to the warm and fuzzy feeling they get for saving a bookstore,  sponsors will also receive a number of benefits, including apparel, books, and other stuff which won’t be sold to the general public, as well as other benefits (see the blog post for more detail).

If you’d like to become a sponsor, you can drop by and pay in person, or mail a check, or call 415 824-8203 or toll-free at 888 893-4008  between noon and eight (their business hours). The mailing address is:

Borderlands Books, Sponsorships
866 Valencia St.
SF,  CA 94110

Much to my frustration, there’s no option for Paypal, KS, Patreon, or some other online platform. I have trouble trouble being understood on the phone, so I guess I’ll be sending a check (along with my phone number, email address, and mailing address).

Beatts had previously said that he would not consider asking for hand outs because he didn’t think it was a sustainable model, and that he "didn’t think that it was right for a for-profit business to ask for a hand-out to continue operating". But even though he wasn’t comfortable with the idea, he floated it last night on the store’s blog.

It’s been 12 hours since the blog post went up, and I would bet that Borderlands Books has already hit its funding goal for the year.

But I will have to check back later (after the store opens in 5 hours) to confirm that detail. That will of course be by email; I don’t want to get in the way of the fundraising.

Stay tuned.

Update: The store made its goal by 2:30PM on Friday. Considering that the donations had to be made by phone on only two lines, that is impressive.

image by False Positives

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DaveMich February 20, 2015 um 10:09 pm

Reality check. If the store is really "beloved", then it will make money. If it’s not making enough money to be viable, then it’s not loved enough.

DavidW February 21, 2015 um 1:55 pm

They were obviously just barely breaking even before if they could not afford to pay their employees a salary high enough to actually live off of, especially in SF. They should not be propped up by people donating money, it’s not a charity. It’s a store that sells books for profit. If they can’t be successful at it anymore, they should go out of business. That is how the free market works.

M Seattle February 21, 2015 um 10:03 pm

This is an interesting model for running a bookstore—it sounds like a cooperative. I’m sure people are familiar with food coops. Why not one for books or other small businesses? I’m a bit disappointed that the owner is using an increase in the minimum wage as a reason for the store’s financial difficulties. That seems to be a simplistic analysis of our economy and makes workers seeking a living wage an easy scapegoat.

flyingtoastr February 22, 2015 um 11:13 am

Worth mentioning that the minimum wage isn’t increasing to the "unsustainable" amount of $15 an hour until *2018*. The owners are just neocon schmucks making a political statement that if they can’t keep their employees below the poverty line they’ll throw a temper tantrum.

Maria (BearMountainBooks) February 22, 2015 um 6:18 pm

Actually, if I recall correctly, they were very much behind the wage increase even though they knew it would put them out of business.

They need a new business model. The handout model won’t work for long. I think a bookstore in NY tried the same thing.

Nate Hoffelder February 22, 2015 um 6:46 pm

Yep. That’s one of the points they made in their posts, which made the whole "neocon" attack doubly funny (the idea of a neocon living in SF for 2 decades made me laugh my ass off).

Rob Siders February 23, 2015 um 1:24 pm

There’s an interesting thing in the blog comments announcing the sponsorship:

I’ll pay a sponsorship happily as long as you make a statement about how it’s not, in fact, the minimum wage update that caused this problem.

Is there something in the post that I overlooked? I remember when the story broke that the owner said it’s because of the minimum wage hike, but the commenter is saying that it’s something else entirely (which wouldn’t shock me).

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