August 01, 2007

Origin of the Bookstore, Part the Tenth - Second-Hand Things

For the next three months we'll be doing a special feature each month in honor of Borderlands' upcoming 10th Anniversary (November 3rd, 2007).  We'll share some stories about what Borderlands is and how it got that way.

by Alan Beatts

Much of the furniture and equipment at Borderlands has a curious and checkered past.  Almost everything in the store that wasn't purpose-built by me (often with the very patient help of staff and friends) was either A) bought used, B) a hand-me-down, C) a gift or D) scrounged in some other fashion.  Here's a little list of some of the notable and interesting items -

The glass cases behind the counter were bought from the science department at the College of San Mateo where they were used as microscope cases 'till I got a hold of them.  The cabinets on the back counter came from the same place where they were used for chemical storage (and my, weren't they fun to clean!).  The display case at the front counter displayed cigars and fine liquor in a shop in Noe Valley.  The laser printer at the counter came from the motorcycle shop I used to manage -- applause to Hewlett Packard since it's eleven years old and still going strong.

The two (large, stuffed) cockroach puppets that decorate the cash register came from Community Thrift courtesy of long-time store volunteer Mikael.   They are Saints Gulik, messengers of the Discordian goddess Eris, of whom several prominent store employees are adherents.  If that last sentence looked like gibberish to you, read THE PRINCIPIA DISCORDIA, conveniently for sale at Borderlands, or click here: <>

The light colored bookshelves near the front door were hand-me-downs from my brother when he and his family moved to Japan.  The tall one came from his office and the two shorter ones were my niece and nephew's first real bookshelves.  I bought the display case in front of the office window from my friend Kelleigh, who was the owner of the Ebb-Tide cafe.  She bought it used herself but it never worked in her shop (it was meant to be a pastry case).

Most of the rugs throughout the store have been in my family for generations (my parents and my maternal grandparents were all very fond of Oriental rugs).  I remember crawling around on them as a child and tracing the patterns with my finger.  The blue rug in the office was a gift from a longtime customer, Guy Johnson.  The couch at the rear of the shop (and its larger mate in the back room) were bought via a classified ad in the SF Weekly three days before the store opened in Hayes Valley.  I was in a panic because I concluded that there weren't enough places to sit, so I rushed out and bought those couches.  I think I spent $75 on the both of them.  I still remember the expression on my mother's face when I brought them to the store, where she was helping shelve books.  I said, "Look!  I got 'em for 75 bucks."

And she said, "Really . . . ." while her expression said, "Holy Christ!  What the hell were you thinking?"

I have to admit that they are the least attractive pieces of furniture in the shop but they've grown on me over the past ten years.  The cats, like several generations of unknown cats before them, occasionally use them as scratching posts.  The chairs at the back of the shop, as well as the sideboard (and the oak file cabinets in the office) all came from Cottrell's Moving and Storage.  Now closed, Cottrell's was on Valencia near Duboce and it was _the_ place to get decent furniture for cheap.  If people didn't pay their storage bill for too long, their furniture ended up for sale.  Based on the age of some of the furniture, Cottrell's had been in the storage business for a long, long time.

In the office, my desk is an old WWII vintage receptionist's desk that my mother bought used and then gave to me when I was in high school.  Jude's desk was the one good desk that was left here by the owner of Captain Jacks when I bought him out, prior to moving to the current location.

All the computers and associated bits were either hand-me-downs from my brother, Joe (it's nice to have a computer programer in the family) or were bought used from various sources, notably the nice folks at PowerMax <> or my friend and computer consultant par excellence, Bill Melcher.

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