Borderlands Books, one of several Mission bookstores you never patronize, is closing because it is no longer financially viable, because San Francisco 2015

From the Borderlands blog, here’s the deal:

In November, San Francisco voters overwhelmingly passed a measure that will increase the minimum wage within the city to $15 per hour by 2018.  Although all of us at Borderlands support the concept of a living wage in principal and we believe that it’s possible that the new law will be good for San Francisco — Borderlands Books as it exists is not a financially viable business if subject to that minimum wage. Consequently we will be closing our doors no later than March 31st.  The cafe will continue to operate until at least the end of this year.

Many businesses can make adjustments to allow for increased wages.  The cafe side of Borderlands, for example, should have no difficulty at all.  Viability is simply a matter of increasing prices.  And, since all the other cafes in the city will be under the same pressure, all the prices will float upwards.  But books are a special case because the price is set by the publisher and printed on the book.  Furthermore, for years part of the challenge for brick-and-mortar bookstores is that companies like have made it difficult to get people to pay retail prices.  So it is inconceivable to adjust our prices upwards to cover increased wages.

Just can’t win. Read on for more of the story.

(Thanks, Jeremy.)

[Photo by Google Maps]

38 Responses to “Borderlands Books, one of several Mission bookstores you never patronize, is closing because it is no longer financially viable, because San Francisco 2015”

  1. GG says:

    Really? You just copied and pasted the press release without commentary? I know MM isn’t aspiring to be the New York Times, but you can do better.

  2. P Nerve says:

    Move to the Excelsior.

  3. Chalkman says:

    this is crushing, borderlands is awesome, and I’ve always had a nerd crush on Jude

  4. Andy says:

    Blaming it on the min wage law is pretty lame considering they have three years to figure it out.

    • Adam says:

      This is the latest small businesses to publicly cite the minimum wage increase as part of their decision to close. It deserves attention.

    • Valenchia says:

      They are pretty explicit about their costs — do you have solution for them? Or do think calling them “lame” somehow proves your point.

      What is really lame is people who think that raising the minimum wage won’t have an affect on businesses. They then get their panties in a wad when reality proves different. And they really get upset when people point out the effect of raising the minimum wage.

      It may be right to raise the minimum wage. But to deny that it is going to have an effect on businesses is to just be blinded by ideology. If you are going to promote a policy then you need to accept that in the real world (as opposed to your fantasy land) it may have some undesirable consequences.

  5. MrEricSir says:

    They already have cats and a cafe, they should turn it into a cat cafe with a small book business on the side.

    • Dappercat says:

      This is actually a genius idea, provided the zoning and permits can be taken care of… which in SF is a very tall order! But seriously, great idea!

    • Jdabs says:

      I LOVE cat cafes!! Everyone loves cat cafes!! Even people who are allergic to cats tend to love cat cafes (they just love them from outside). Cats especially love cat cafes, especially at treat time!!

  6. gary says:

    Isn’t the whole idea of the minimum wage increase to help drive the economy? Have they considered that if wages go up more people will be able to purchase books?

    Aside from that hypothetical, if the owner has only been drawing 28K and all he can read, and they pay minimum wage (I am guessing without any benefits) then the business has not been viable for a while, don’t blame the new law.

    Who owns the building?

    • mishy says:

      If wages rise people do not buy more books, the value of the books they already buy. Raising the minimum wage doesn’t cause people to “like” books more.

      Since they cite that they can’t sell books at a price other than the one printed, their expenses increase, and their income remains the same.

    • blah says:

      >the business has not been viable for a while, don’t blame the new law.

      This is the reality. There is this thing called, perhaps they might have cited it in their press release.

      • Valenchia says:

        No doubt Amazon has an effect, but they have been dealing with that for well over a decade now.

        It is interesting how rather than accept that the law might actually have a negative effect on a business, you ignore reality and just claim that the business was not viable.

        Public policy is sometimes a matter of making tough choices, but you seem to prefer to ignore the consequences of those choices and just denigrate hard working people who have built a business.

        • troll says:

          So much talk. So little data. Yawn.

          Wage increases/COL adjustments affect all small businesses, of course, but only really screw the ones that are poorly run. 61% of small biz owners favor minimum wage hakes. Doesn’t take much to realize that workers that earn more, spend more, helping an entire economy. If your bookstore can’t handle that, well see ya, you’re not helping the greater economy and that’s the way it goes. Actual business owners know it helps with productivity, turnover, and usually better service (so happier customers). Good luck with your business endeavors and kindly sit your ass back down.

  7. Albert says:

    When I lived in Boston there was a great used book and record store that could not stay open because of rising rents. They closed, and re-opened as a Tapas restaurant, music venue AND a used book and record store. Business has been great. I think that book stores can still exist in an expensive city but they need to augment the income from other products. They have a cafe so this is already in place and should be able to be modified to help keep book stores in existence.

    Park Life is another great example of combining a book store with merchandise and an art gallery.

    Maybe book stores can’t survive by themselves anymore but I don’t want to see them disappear.

    • Pacific Standard Simon says:

      You make it sound like all a niche market bookstore owner has to do to be successful in the book business is to be interested in running a half a dozen other business sidelines (which he or she may not be interested in) at the same time. Maybe so. Another approach might be laying-off most or all employees and working most or all of the store hours as a less-than-minimally-payed owner-operator, while working the internet sales like a maniac. But these are both complicated, stressful options, and I know (having been there) I wouldn’t go for either if I had something (anything!) else available.

  8. wurple says:

    The minimum wage law blaming is BS; I’d love to hear what their rent is.

    • Pacific Standard Simon says:

      No, it isn’t — it’s the market reality. Rent is business expenses. Apples and oranges.

      • Grizzled Mission says:

        Wages: a business expense. Rent: a business expense. Apples and oranges?

        • Pacific Standard Simon says:

          OK, two VERY different business expenses — one negotiable, the other nonnegotiable.

          • Pacific Standard Simon says:

            And besides, my point is: The minimum wage law blaming is NOT BS — it’s probably the straw that broke the camel’s back.

          • ofcourse says:

            It’s definitely the straw – it’s clear from the post that the business was in decline and they had been barely holding on before the wage hike.

    • Valenchia says:

      @wurple: Please go and read their statement where they very clearly explain their costs. How is that BS?

      Why is it that you can’t accept reality? Sorry, but raising the minimum wage does hurt small businesses. Holding your mouth until you turn blue and calling BS (without any fact to support that) will not change things.

      Maybe you need grow up a bit.

  9. Liz Pallatto says:

    This is really sad — a good portion of my bookshelves are filled with Borderlands books. This is a loss for the Mission and Bay Area — only science-fiction/fantasy bookstore I know of around. Will go to stock up on the classic used books esp

  10. NOAA intern says:

    This is Boston – not LA.

  11. Andrew says:

    WHO GOES TO BOOK STORES. good riddance.

  12. Floyd says:

    Sad. Pretty much my entire library is from Dog Eared, Aardvark, and Borderlands. Hope they find a way to continue. Great selection. Good staff. Appropriately freaky cat.

  13. Tuffy says:

    Like, can’t you just put a new price tag sticker over the one already printed on the book?

    • Valenchia says:

      Like you are an idiot who has never run a business?

      • Tuffy says:

        I’ve run multiple business. I’ve also bought many books that have a sticker placed over the printed price on the book. Albeit, it’s usually to mark down the price. But it seems logical that an increase in price is just as feasible.

        I think the more honest explanation as to their going out of business is not the minimum wage or the fact that they supposedly can’t set their own prices on the items they sell but that the brick and mortar book store is going the way of the video rental store, the fotomat and countless other once profitable endeavors.

  14. Truth says:

    Blaming it on the minimum wage is pretty silly, this is just a business model that’s losing viabilities. Even the big boys (Borders, B & N) can’t hack it. It’s just a reality that online shopping and e-books are putting brick-and-mortar bookstores out of business. They would have to get more creative to stay in business, they are keeping the cafe open, perhaps they could integrate the bookstore into the cafe.