With a debt collective members estimate to be $100,000, members of the Modern Times Bookstore Collective told supporters at a meeting last week that the 41-year-old bookstore may have to close its doors in September.
As a result, the Mission landmark that specializes in politically progressive volumes, is rethinking its operating plan in order to survive economic shocks of the internet age along with competition and gentrification, managers of the collective said.
“We all know that we can’t just sell books,” Lex Non Scripta, the collective’s event planner, said of Modern Times and other independent bookstores struggling to stay afloat. “We have to look at other ways to sustain the stores, like programing events or having cafes. We are all looking to a long-time sustainability plan.” Borderlands Books on Valencia Street told Mission Local in 2010 that they opened a cafe in order to help sustain their book sales.
The collective members said they are asking for a skilled base of volunteers including lawyers, marketing and PR experts, and fundraising professionals who can help to shape future plans and develop alternative revenue sources such as online sales.
From its current location on 24th Street, collective members said the bookstore is suffering not just from global upheaval in publishing and the shift to the digital media consumption, but also from local competition. A newly opened bookshop just a few blocks away is a positive presence in the community, members of the collective said, but might also negatively affect sales at Modern Times.
In addition to expanding its online presence, community members discussed a possible crowd funding campaign – a course of action that has helped Adobe Books, another financially distressed Mission District bookseller.
Modern Times has occupied four separate locations since it first opened, including one on Sanchez Street and more recently on Valencia.
Bookstore staffer Travis Culley said the Thursday evening meeting was “necessary, overdue, and exciting because something must change. Who knows what shape [it] will take? But there’s enough spirit to help, sustain and survive even the most complicated situation.”
Frankie Rivera, a Mission District resident and a Native American Rights activist was one of dozens of supporters who attended the recent meeting. “I came tonight because a lot of stores and businesses are being gentrified in the neighborhood and it’s sad,” he said.
Modern Times will hold a second meeting to rally support, the details of which have yet to be announced.