San Francisco's outstanding, world-beating science fiction bookstore, Borderlands, will shut no later than March 31.
In an open letter, the owners Alan Beatts and Jude Feldman explain that they can't pay San Francisco's new $15 minimum wage (a minimum wage that they support). That increase will raise their payroll costs by 39% and their overall costs by 18% -- and since they can't raise the cost of their books (because they're pre-priced, and retail priced books are already a tough sell in the age of Amazon), the only way they could cover the increase would be to stop paying themselves, or fire almost everyone and work insane hours. The cafe attached the store will stay open for the foreseeable, since those prices are flexible and can be raised to account for their increased overheads.
It sounds like a hopeless situation, and it's certainly bad news for bookstores as a category. If a store as well-run and wonderful as Borderlands can't make it...
I'm really gutted by the news. The Borderlands staff and owners are friends of mine, and the store has been so good to me and the writers and books I love. They are a vital piece of what makes San Francisco and science fiction great.
Although the major effects of the increasing minimum wage won't be felt for a while, we've chosen to close now instead of waiting for two reasons. First, the minimum wage has already increased from $10.74 per hour to $11.05 (as of January 1st) and it will increase again on May 1st to $12.25. Continuing to pay the higher wage without any corresponding increase in income will expend the store's cash assets. In essence, the store will have less money (or inventory) six months from now, so closing sooner rather than later makes better business sense. But more importantly, keeping up our morale and continuing to serve our customers while knowing that we are going to close has been very painful for all of us over the past three months. Continuing to do so for even longer would be horrible. Far better to close at a time of our choosing, keep everyone's sorrow to a minimum, and then get on with our lives.
Some of you may be wondering, what can I do to help? Honestly, the best thing that you can do for us is -- come in and buy books! We've got an awful lot of damn good ones and we'd love to see every single one go to someone who appreciates it before we close. We're also going to be selling all our shelves and other fixtures. It would make us very happy to know that our hand-built shelves were going to sit in the living room of someone who was a customer of ours and who appreciates their history. And finally, if you're looking for a way to remember Borderlands (and you already have enough shelves and books -- crazy though that idea is) -- we're having hooded sweatshirts made with our logo and "1997 - 2015" on them. Once we're closed, there'll never be another place to get them again. We’ll have those in by the middle of February.
But, more importantly than coming in and buying stuff, please come in and say, "Hi". The best thing about this business has been our customers and we're going to miss you all (well, most of you at least
). But please do be considerate of us; we all understand that finding that we're closing may be sad and upsetting but remember -- it's even harder for us. Borderlands was our livelihood, our pride & joy, and, for many of us, it was a big part of what defined us. Although we understand your feeling of loss, it is dwarfed by what we are feeling. So come in, give us your best wishes, and try to be cheerful. Everything changes and everything ends. We did a hell of a job for a long time and now it's time for us to do something else.