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.