It seems not even cornering a niche market can keep bookstores alive anymore. Borderlands Books, purveyors of niche and popular science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and horror books to an enthusiastic community, announced today that it will close by March 31. The announcement closely follows news of Valhalla Books’ similar fate, though Borderlands enjoyed a prominent storefront on Valencia street, a cafe, and slight profits in 2014. After years of struggles including a rent hike at a former location in 1999 and the popularity of online book sales and electronic readers over the years (much like Adobe and Modern Times), the bookstore announced that the impending minimum wage increase to $15 by 2018 was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“The change in minimum wage will mean our payroll will increase roughly 39%.  That increase will in turn bring up our total operating expenses by 18%.  To make up for that expense, we would need to increase our sales by a minimum of 20%.  We do not believe that is a realistic possibility for a bookstore in San Francisco at this time,” Borderlands wrote.

Rather than drag out their demise, they are taking decisive action and closing the store immediately, according to the blog post that broke the news.

“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,” the post said. “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.”

In that same post, Borderlands said it supports the idea of a livable wage in an expensive city, though one of its managers has worked long hours for $28,000 a year — making it more expensive to pay fewer staff for fewer hours as higher minimum wages are mandated.

To support the bookstore through its last days, customers are encouraged to come in and purchase the remaining books and even the handmade shelves that hold them, as well as to just visit to offer support. The cafe next door is expected to remain open until at least the end of this year. Borderlands will host a public meeting in the cafe at 7 p.m. February 12 to address community questions.

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  1. Wow.. They gave the mission what a true SF business represents uniquely having their own style,that spoke loudly is very subtle ways. Each day always holding integrity,humanity and respect first and foremost.

  2. Thank you very much for the mention. Just by way of clarification – the rent hike referenced here happened in 1999. We have an excellent lease and a very good relationship with our landlord. Our rent has not influenced our decision to close. Best Regards, Alan Beatts.

  3. Borderlands is one of my favorite places in the city. My girlfriend and I moved out of the neighborhood four years ago, but we still make special weekend visits. For a few month span, one night a week we read and ate dinner in the cafe before she went to an art class. A cousin moved to SF in November after quitting a job at Powell’s in Portland and Borderlands was a highlight of the welcome tour (which also included Philz of course). Mostly coincidence, of the three books I’ve read so far this year all are paper. One’s a new release hardcover from Borderlands and two (non-genre) are from Green Apple. I love Borderlands and will certainly never forget it.

    1. You can thank the new higher minimum wage for this “tragic loss”…. to bad “progressives” have no understanding of the realities of simple economics.