Adobe Books In Danger of Closing

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Adobe Books, one of the Mission’s most beloved bookstores, is on the verge of closing.

“There is a new landlord who wants to raise the rent closer to market rate,” said owner Andrew McKinley.

The new landlord took over the property at 3166 16th St., between Valencia and Guerrero streets, in 2010, and now wants to raise the rent to $6,000 a month, a 20 percent increase. McKinley said he cannot afford the new rate.

The store’s windows are papered with signs reading “Everything on sale” and “Everything must go” — the same ones used when the store almost closed in 2010.

“We could make changes, morph it into a more successful business. I could sell it to someone who could take care of it and get the landlord off our back,” McKinley said. “It would be nice to keep the store going.”

He is coming to terms, however, with the idea that the store is likely to close. “It’s a goodbye sale.”

McKinley, 55, opened the bookstore in 1989 and it quickly became known by some as “the living room of the Mission,” according to an employee. The store received national attention in 2004 when it arranged its more than 20,000 used books by color.

Over the last decade, the Mission’s independent bookstores, many of which have been here for decades, have struggled against one new competitor after another, including mega-bookstores, online sales and now e-books.

Abandoned Planet Bookstore was evicted from its Valencia Street location in 2010. Modern Times moved from Valencia Street in 2011 because of lagging sales and increasing rents. Alan Beatts, the owner of Borderlands Books and the Borderlands Café next door, previously told Mission Loc@l that he opened the café because he doesn’t see bookstores as a viable business.

McKinley pointed out that other independent bookstores in San Francisco, such as City Lights, are able to stay open because they own the buildings.

Some customers and employees were at the store on Wednesday afternoon, lamenting the loss.

“This is the last bohemian-style bookstore,” said employee Sri Ananda. He added that many people came to read and even nap on their couches.

No matter what happens, McKinley said, he still has the memories.

“We had good times over the years. Even today is a good day.”

39 Comments

  1. ls

    Adobe has been an important landmark in the Mission. It’s really disappointing to see such important spaces have to close because a new landlord has other monetary motives. I know its idealistic, but I’d love to see more legislative support to protect these spaces from such drastic rent increases.

    • Stewart

      I agree, very sad. What did you have in mind? because someone(new owner) purchased the property as an investment and if their costs keep going what are they to do, just keep everything at old below market prices. You wouldn’t do that, nobody would as much a we like to view ourselves as generous we would raise the rent as well.

    • JF

      Yeah, unfortunately people just don’t seem to care, especially the ones that will make money from these types of deals

      • Stewart

        yes but does the book seller sell everything for 20% less than retail? if not than why the double standard. Why is it the person who invests in the community, by buying property is viewed as the greedy, selfish person? you guys are so mean! from what the article says he hasn’t even raised to full market value. I mean is everything full price these days. Why make the entrepreneur take it in the shorts just because some uneducated business man didn’t have the foresight to buy his own property??

        • Jon Fellman

          Actually, Andrew constantly, everyday gives big deals to people. He is a very generous and genuine soul… not to mention the fact that the normal prices there are ridiculously reasonable. And, you obviously don’t know the owner, because he is definitely not uneducated. What makes you think that every business person can afford to buy the property they rent anyway?

  2. Monica

    OMG! What a great space for a baby Gap!!

    • randolph mortimer

      you seriously need to vary your trolls more, you already used Baby Gap on another story – please don’t be so boring.

  3. Alyssa Taylor Wendt

    ADOBE has been an invaluable community center for years, bringing together the artistic pulse of the Mission and much of San Francisco. I owned the business next door to Andrew for 8 years and feel deeply saddened by the potential loss of his vision and our extended family in that neighborhood. Although I am no longer in San Francisco, I strongly oppose the motion of the landlords to not protect and restore this staple legendary fixture on 16th street.

    • Stewart

      What don’t you get about INVESTMENT, business, capitalism? or does that only apply to Apple, microsoft, Facebook? the new owner purchased the property and wants to bring the rent ‘closer’ to market values. One reason SF is so expensive is the politics! you speak as though the new owner is greedy. I hope you never buy property because I’m sure you wouldn’t want to see your investment return profit!

      • Parker Gibbs

        Something tells me Stewart is the new landlord, or that he is really stoked about his Business 101 course at City College.

        • Stewart

          fuck off parker! I work in real estate, you fucks make business sound immoral. Does the book store guy sell all of his books ‘below’ market value? let see, I think he should sell ALL of the books at 20% less than retail. That way I know he’s a decent human being!

          • Jon Fellman

            keep talking, your digging yourself a nice deep hole.

          • only10yearsinsf

            stewart, i’m not the boss here but what part of “mission Local welcomes comments, but we ask readers to keep discussion civil…” do you fail to comprehend?

            your subsequent posts are similarly disrespectful. you very well may have a well-thought out position but the profanity and disrespectful tone of your posts makes it hard for anyone to hear you.

      • J

        The new owner IS greedy. He did not buy the property, he is the husband of the prior owner’s daughter…

        • Stewart

          Why do you say ‘greedy’ you don’t even know the details ass duche!

          • Jon Fellman

            What is wrong with you. Can’t you see that the people commenting here have a personal relationship with this store, which has been here over 20 yrs? I have been going there since it opened and spend a lot of time their as a regular member of the community. This place is much more than just a book store, serving as a performance space, art gallery, salon, and community center. Plus the owner has been a important part of the community for ever.
            I personally think that the creating a great community is more important making more money, and as I said the current owner inherited the property anyway.
            If the owner were actually a part of the community, he would have a vested interest in seeing this vital space continue which is why I would love to see it turn into something like printed matter in NY.

          • Jon Fellman

            So are you saying you do know the details?
            I know what I have heard from the owner of Adobe, but its looking like you stand to make money off this yourself the way you’re talking…

      • Steve Heilig

        I do own property in SF and rent at less than market value to people I like. And you’re wrong about why SF is expensive. But most important, What don’t you get about being a decent human, Stewart?

        • Jon Fellman

          Thanks so much for saying this steve, and Elle below… I have been trying to get this to happen. I agree, a very good and important idea!

        • Stewart

          OMG J!!! you must be a saint!!! Saint J, hey look everybody there’s Saint J, we all need to live our lives like J!!!

  4. Elie

    A smart investor who understands the value of landmark commodities would buy the building, turn the bookstore into a non profit like printed matter in NY- not a stretch for adobe, which already doubles as a community center, pioneering art gallery, and library – and increase the value of the property by adding cultural value. This is pretty standard operating procedure for developers like Walentas who did this in Soho and Dumbo years ago. Also a nice tax write off.

    • J

      You are SO right, and I have been trying to tell ANdrew and the Adobe community know this for a while now… I hope it can happen!!!

  5. Floyd

    With so few of them left, I would hate to see another bookstore close. However, as someone who buys exclusively from used book stores, I have never been able to find anything good at Adobe (unlike Dog-eared or Aardvark). I truly hope they survive, but they need to do something to update their stock, clear out the junk & improve their sorting.

    • Jon Fellman

      True, when only looked at as a Bookstore Adobe, Adobe does not always have whatever you are looking for ( it is the kind of store you go into without expectations but strike it rich if you have an open mind). Adobe is actually much much more than a bookstore. Adobe is a community center, a cultural hub that has been host to the work of many now famous musicians ans artists such as Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom, Vetiver, The Coachwhips, Chris Johanson, Simon Evens, Tauba Auerbach, Colter Jacobson, Keegan McHargue, Shaun O’Dell, and many more. It is also home to a regular vibrant community that boasts some of the most interesting conversations and “regulars” you could meet anywhere…

      • Jon Fellman

        to add to the list aboveof great artists who have shown/ performed at Adobe:
        Christine Shields, Johanna St. Clair, Kyle Ranson, Amanda Eicher, Felix Mcnee, Chris Corales, Thee Oh Sees, Bert Bergen, SARA THUSTRA, Sonny Smith, aaron Novik, etc…

        • a truly depressing thread if there ever was one. it brings to mind both bob Dylan and early Eddie Murphy( SNL). Adobe is the only used book store in S.F. that matters( in my less than humble opinion) scratch that ~ the only Store that matters. That is because it is so much more than a book store. It is deeply steeped in Soul with a capital S, due almost entirely to Andrew but also to his early partner Brian Bilby and of course many unique people who have been a apart of that artistic community it fostered. I was living around the corner on Albion when they opened and have been a fan since week one. It is sad and pathetic ( but unfortunately all too typical) that businesses that help to make a neighborhood really worth living in often get slaughtered by the very “market value” they helped to bring about. what will go there ? another lame ass gourmet restaurant or bar that services people who don’t even live here. just what we need. It will be a sad day indeed if Adobe closes its doors and I for one will never patronize the business that takes its place. I will probably put some gypsy voodoo curse action on it as well.~”nuff said”

      • Newcomer

        I’m glad that Adobe has such a rich history, but you can’t coast on that forever. You’ve got to bring in new blood, and as an outsider coming in for the first time, it felt like it was a pretty insular community of self-congratulating folk reassuring each other of how interesting and diverse they were. Basically, the artist’s equivalent of a hipster coffee shop filled with people starting at MacBooks.

  6. Ten years ago I lost my space on Clarion Alley & moved to Los Angeles. I vividly remember selling Andrew a bunch of my books. It was obvious he was going out of his way to buy as many as he could and giving me every penny they were worth and maybe a bit more. I wish I could get up there to buy a bunch of whatever from him now. Wherever he goes will become a locus of goodwill and invention.

  7. Gordon

    What will happen to lone star swan?

  8. suki

    I understand peoples affection for Adobe,but their stock is a mess and their attitude towards selling is..well,sorting your stock by color is a bit quixotic and won’t help sales. All bookstores have to be curated to some extant. Look at Borderlands. It’s probably true that it wouldn’t do as well, or survive at all, if there was no coffee shop.

    However, the books that line the shelves are there on purpose and not because the owners to hoard all Sci-fi books. Editing and curating your stock is fundamental to running a bookstore. Borderlands is both a nice place to wander around in, and an easy place to purchase a book. Finally, the staff at Borderlands tend to respond to customers. The staff at Adobe books…. do not.
    Selling books is the job of a bookstore, plain and simple.

  9. Elie

    Stewart, good investment is productive not predatory, mutually beneficial to investor and community, not exploitative and draining by one of the other. Bad investments may be a momentary jackpot for a lucky inheritor of property he never actually earned, but any smart investor takes passionate, positive risks and makes a long term profit that benefits not only him/her, but his descendants – both genetic and civic – in the big picture. See: Everything we cherish about SF.

    • Stewart

      Elie! I do not disagree with you. I’m saying without all the information why is the new owner being demonized? the costs involved in these types of transactions are enormous(I work in RE finance) Why should they absorb the loss or costs just because a local person didn’t manage their business correctly or enough to account for this type of things…I mean rents do increase RIGHT???

      • Jon Fellman

        The problem is not actually that simple Stewart. Its not just about managing business. The landlord raising the rent for the 2nd time in 6 months is just the latest thing that has been an assault against Adobe, and all used book stores, record stores, and the like. Adobe has actually weathered longer than most of the other longtime used bookstores in the bay area which have fallen prey to the lack of sales due to people buying on Amazon, Ebay, and ABE instead of leaving their homes to shop.
        Because of the loyalty surrounding Adobe, and the charisma of Andrew McKinley it was surviving, even in these tougher times… until the doubled rent.

  10. Jeff Ray

    Adobe is an invaluable landmark for local arts, and culture. I like the non profit idea using Printed Matter as an example. I also like the idea of turning it into a worker owned co-op, much like the one I work at down the street, Rainbow Grocery.

  11. Ed

    I was always surprised that it didn’t focus more on art/music. That’s when it felt alive- as more of a hipster hangout for interesting art and music.

    As a bookstore, the selection was poor. I remember that book installation well because when I needed a book for university I asked the girl working if she could help me and she said ‘You’ll find it’. I felt stupid, so I never went back for books. Yes, they have been there for years but that means they have also had plenty of time to prepare for this- remember the 90′s?

    People need to dump their kindles and buy more books from them. (unlikely) Or perhaps it’s time for some of these famous artists to invest in Adobe to a greater extent in order to take it in a new direction. (??) Change is good. But one thing is for sure, you can’t blame ‘greed’forever. At some point you have to engage with the bigger picture, and that is that selling books in this manner is like trying to sell black and white Zeniths TV at Thift Town forever.

    Business is a very creative field. It’s a pity because if this incredibly creative community would embrace the business side of things a little more as a whole, it would probably flourish.

    • suki

      “You’ll find it”. Yup. My point exactly. Adobe didn’t strike me as a bookstore that was interested in the “store” part. A store is where you purchase things. And if you’re smart, you help that process along by helping the customer buy things. Or not.

  12. Alex

    Adobe closing? Might as well close the Mission District — is there anything left?

    So the new landlord will sit on the property and not rent it just like all the other empty Valencia storefronts there are…

Comments are closed.