Alan Beatts, owner of Borderlands Books and neighboring Borderlands Cafe. Photo by Yousur Alhlou.

Update, Sat. Feb 21, 4:06 p.m.

From Alan Beatts who writes that in less than two days, Borderlands has met its goal and will remain on the Planet Earth for at least another year.

Though we are still accepting sponsorships and will continue to do so for the remainder of the year, at roughly 2:30 pm we reached our goal of 300 sponsors.  Borderlands will remain open until March 31st, 2016.

Earlier, published Feb. 19th at 6 p.m.

Fans of Borderlands Books came out in droves to a community meeting last week after the beloved fantasy bookshop announced it was closing. They offered new business ideas and, perhaps most importantly, their fervent support for Valencia’s Street bastion of science fiction, fantasy, and mystery books.

Owner Alan Beatts was apparently taking notes. As a byproduct of the meeting, Beatts and Borderlands’ staff announced Thursday that they’ve got a new plan that, if it works, will keep the store open.

Borderlands plans to offer its most dedicated patrons a sponsorship model, in which sponsors pay $100 a year in exchange for several benefits.  To survive for another year, he needs 300 people to sign up as sponsors to raise $30,000. That he says will cover the additional payroll cost of the minimum wage increase which he previously cited as the store’s main reason for closure.  To prevent dependence on large donors, individuals can buy only one sponsorship.

If Borderlands doesn’t sign up 300 members by March 31, the store will close. If its sponsors don’t renew their sponsorship in the following year, the store will close then. For now, Beatts says he feels “cautiously optimistic.”

While they’re still hammering out all the potential benefits, sponsors will get reserved seating at author events, the ability to rent the cafe for private events, and the opportunity to purchase special print items not available to the general public.

In a statement shared with Mission Local, and available in full on Borderlands’ website, Beatts says he was initially hesitant to establish a membership model because he didn’t believe it to be sustainable and “didn’t think it was right for a for-profit business to ask for a hand-out to continue operating.”

What changed Beatts’ mind? In part, it was the intensity with which Borderlands patrons showed their support. He was taken aback by how many people were willing to just hand over money to the struggling business. Several community meeting attendees suggested a membership plan in which enrolled members could simply pay more for Borderlands merchandise.

“The other thing that was made clear to me at the meeting was that people really valued the social aspect of Borderlands, as well as valuing our recommendations, curation, and suggestions,” Beatts writes. “Of course, I value it too, as do all our staff, but I didn’t realize just how much it meant to other people.”

That social, community value inspired Beatts to try this sponsorship plan. One of the benefits of being a sponsor will be invites to Borderland special events, parties, and writing workshops.

To those fantasy bookstore fans who had been crestfallen by news the store’s imminent closure and are reading this update now, Beatts says: “I apologize for the whiplash that you may be experiencing right about now—everyone at Borderlands is feeling it too.”

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Daniel Hirsch is a freelance writer who has been living in the Mission since 2009. When he's not contributing to Mission Local, he's writing plays, working as an extra for HBO, and/or walking to the top of Bernal Hill.

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  1. Responding to Kevin Horner, despite my better judgment: The point here is that they *are* going to comply with the new minimum wage law, because they have to, because it’s the law. If that’s not a “living wage” then they screwed-up the law.

    And in general: brick-and-mortar institutions that try to support the place by selling stuff, while Amazon is undercutting them (via “efficiencies” based on nasty labor practices, and using their muscle to squeeze suppliers ), are going to be in trouble. People who value them as places will probably have to pay for them as places, rather than supporting them indirectly. I’ve been expecting a resurgence of “social clubs” for some time now, this sounds like the early stages of that trend.

    (If you want to yank your “support” from something, yank it from Amazon. Duh.)

  2. don’t blame minimum wage for the decline in print book sales and risky market. not supporting this place anymore.

  3. Hooray for Alan Beatts, owner, Jude Feldman, general manager, and the whole staff of Borderlands Books for their willingness to stay open and try memberships. They are emotionally exhausted people right now. They are also dedicated people who talked to their customers and listened.

    Hooray for the 300 customers who gave $100 each. They understand the problem. The bookstore needs to pay San Francisco wages and San Francisco rent but cannot charge San Francisco prices. Book prices are national prices, set by publishers. Memberships are a direct response to the problem. And memberships won’t be the only response.

    The new members of Borderlands Books (and future members) understand that a bookstore is a place. They love books and they love bookstores. They love science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mystery, and they love Borderlands Books. They love a good story and they love a good place. Alan and all made a good place.

  4. No it isn’t. capitalism!= market. People have been paying for things they need in markets for millenia while capitalism has only existed for a few centuries. The primary distinguishing feature of capitalism is wage labour where workers sell their labour to capitalists in exchange for wages rather than their product to customers. The main reason for this is most people do not have the resources to go into business on their own behalf due to a history where the poor were forcibly dispossessed of the means of self-sufficiency.

  5. I assume there are some tech types with money who love sic fi (actually many more). Why don’t a few of them step up and pledge $1000-5K each too. Invest in their new adopted neighborhood?

  6. How interesting, sponsors pay $100 a year in exchange for several benefits? Is that not the hated capitalist model of greed in this town? Where “people over profits” is the sacred chant.