11 booksellers receive financial boost from city

With virtually any product available at the click of a button, it's no surprise that online enterprises have impacted local businesses, such as the city's diverse selection of independent book sellers.

But there's something special about holding a physical copy of your favorite read and thumbing through the pages, stopping into your local shop to speak to the experts, and attending community gatherings and book readings.

To help ensure that San Francisco's book purveyors thrive, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) -- in partnership with the nonprofit Working Solutions and the Small Business Development Center -- announced this month that it's awarding 11 neighborhood bookstores with a total of $103,000 as part of the Bookstore SF Program.

Adobe Books. | Photo: Kevin Y./Yelp

The businesses selected for the program:
  • Comix Experience (305 Divisadero St.)
  • Dog Eared Books (489 Castro St. and 900 Valencia St.)
  • Bolerium Books (2141 Mission St., Suite 300)
  • Mission: Comics & Art (2250 Mission St.)
  • Adobe Books & Arts Cooperative (3130 24th St.)
  • Alley Cat Books and Gallery (3036 24th St.)
  • East Wind Bookstore (1435 Stockton St.)
  • Just a Touch Christian Bookstore (1237 Noriega St.)
  • Green Apple Books (506 Clement St.)
  • Stevens Books (49 Ocean Ave.)

In an email to Hoodline, an OEWD representative explained that the Bookstore SF Program "was inspired by the late Mayor Lee, who would often times visit independent bookstores."

The department conducted outreach to all of the city's small bookstores and received 11 applications, all of which were subsequently awarded grants, the representative added. Each business received between $9,000 and $12,000.

According to OEWD, there are roughly 57 independent bookstores in the city generating more than $9.8 million in annual sales and providing more than 100 local jobs. These businesses host more than 40 free community events each month and have an average of 21 years in business.

"Neighborhood bookstores are essential components of San Francisco's character, culture and history," OEWD director Joaquin Torres said in a statement. "This program supports these impactful small businesses that bring charm and vitality to our neighborhoods, foster curiosity, cultivate individual thought, encourage the exchange of ideas and provide a space where adults and children can curl up with a great book."

Comix Experience. | Photo: Jesse T./Yelp

OEWD notes that bookstores face many barriers of operation in the current market, including pressure from rising rents, and competition with larger chains and online retailers. The fund aims to help the city's booksellers become increasingly competitive through innovation, like redesigning websites to increase online sales and growing Book of the Month membership programs.

"It involves a lot of people to keep this ship afloat and it's harder and harder to exist when rents are increasing," said Adobe Books and Arts Cooperative board member Rebekah Kouy-Ghadosh. "So, receiving the grant from the city's Bookstore SF Program provides a cushion ... We want to be here for the long run ... and we are thankful to the city of San Francisco for making it possible."

In addition to the grant awards, the booksellers will receive services from the city, including technical assistance with marketing, human resources and management consulting, and real estate and broker services, such as long-term lease negotiations.

A representative from OEWD also noted that these services are provided to any small business by the Small Business Development Center and Office of Small Business and Working Solutions.

"Bookstores are more than just retailers," said Pete Mulvihill, co-owner of Green Apple Books. "The passionate book-lovers and thousands of books help open worlds, create connections, allow discovery, start conversations, and act as a 'third place' for members of our community."

Looking ahead, OEWD will evaluate the "impact of the grant funds and technical assistance provided to determine whether to expand to other small business sectors that represent San Francisco values," said the OEWD representative.