October 13, 2017

Borderlands to Buy Building

by Alan Beatts

It's been quite a while since I've written something for this newsletter, but something is going on at Borderlands that is so big, so exciting, and (to be honest) so scary that I wanted to tell you about it.

This week I made an offer on a building that is meant to be a permanent home for Borderlands.  On Wednesday that offer was accepted by the seller.  This is a huge event in the lifetime of the store.

The building is a three-story Victorian built in 1902.  There are two flats upstairs and a retail space on the ground floor.  There is also a backyard and a full basement.  It's located just a bit east of Masonic Ave.  It's a little bit smaller that our current spot but, by putting the office and storage in the basement and being smarter with the layout, I think we can fit all our current stock and more.  Sadly, there is no room to accommodate the cafe. (Please note -- that does not mean I'm planning on closing the cafe.)

The address of the store is 1373 Haight.  If you try to look at it on Google street view, the place that pops up is actually across the street so "turn" South.  Currently it's the location of Recycled Records but, when we move we're not going to displace them.  The owner of the record shop owns the building and he's planning on retiring.  He'll be closing up shop and moving out shortly after the sale closes.  He's still open for now so, if you'd like to take a look at the place, you can.  But, if you decide to visit, please don't worry about the condition of the interior -- both the bookstore and the cafe were in much, much worse shape when we arrived.  When we're done, it will be beautiful.

But (you knew there had to be a "but"), due to a number of factors, not the least of which being a lower-than-normal down payment, the institutional lenders that I have talked with are not interested in financing the purchase.  So, if I'm going to make this work, I need to find individuals who would be willing to lend directly to the company.  If you or someone you know would be interested in talking about making a loan for this purchase, please get in touch with me by either replying to this email or reaching me directly at abeatts@borderlands-books.com.  I'm not looking for a single person who can loan the entire amount that I need (I'm not opposed to the idea but it's quite a lot of money). Instead my idea is to find a number of people (15 or more) who will be taking a not-too-large risk but who, together, can provide the sum that is needed.  Aside from the obvious, the idea is attractive because I much prefer the prospect of paying interest to you, our customers, rather than to a bank.

Lest you think that I'm trying to build a real-estate empire, let me tell you how I came to be shopping for a building: The sponsorship program that we started in 2015 caused a major shift in how I viewed the business.  Previously I had considered it my personal project; one that I would stop either when I could no longer do it or when I died.  But, after so many people were willing to contribute to allow it to continue to operate, I began to see it more as a public trust than something that was solely my possession.

With that attitude change, I began to look for a way to ensure that Borderlands could continue to operate after I was unwilling or unable to run it.  The conclusion that I came to was that the first and biggest obstacle to that sort of longevity was the perilous nature of commercial rentals in San Francisco. Having realized that, a year and a half ago I began working with a realtor to find a building that could house the store and that we could afford.  The first part was easy, the second not so much so.

On Haight Street I've found a place that satisfies both requirements, barely.  If I can arranged the financing, I'm confident that carrying the debt and costs of the building is within reach.

Accomplishing that will mean more than giving Borderlands a home.  This store has been my life's work and I wish to see it continue after my life is done. Further, I truly believe that bookstores are a critical part of the creative and intellectual life of our society as well as being an element of our city's soul.  I am in the lucky position of having already provided for the people in my life -- which means that there is no need for me to make Borderlands part of my financial legacy to them.

I have a dream that is bigger than just purchasing a building in which Borderlands can live.  With that achieved, I'll be able to pursue the rest of my dream -- when I'm no longer able to run Borderlands, I can make the business a non-profit and bequeath the building to it.  With that in place, it is possible that San Francisco will have a bookstore for as long as there are books to sell and people to buy them.

I'd like you to help me make that dream real.

1 comment:

  1. Tsunami Books in Eugene is trying to similarly solicit unsecured personal loans from patrons in order to secure their lease . Might be worth asking them about their experience.