Borderlands Books has secured loans totaling $1.9 million from some 49 individual supporters who helping the bookstore buy a building on Haight Street that will serve as its permanent home.
“I cannot tell you how happy and excited I am about this. It truly is a dream come true,” Borderlands owner Alan Beatts wrote to the bookstore’s supporters.
The idea of using patrons to help support the business began in 2015, when Beatts gathered customers of his science fiction, mystery and horror bookstore to talk about his plans for closing the bookstore. No, readers nudged — try a sponsorship program.
He did, and in less than two days gathered 300 sponsors. The bookstore eventually went from projected losses to storing away a surplus. In April 2016, the idea first surfaced that the surplus could go toward a down payment on a permanent home for the store.
Unable to secure a large loan from a bank, Beatts put the question to Borderlands’ clientele: would they be interested in funding the purchase of a building at 1373 Haight St.?
They were. In 18 days, lenders put up $1.9 million.
Recycled Records currently occupies the building, but the record store owner was planning to retire after the sale of the building, Beatts said.
Were any lessons learned?
“I learned that I’m the kind of person who can raise close to $2 million in two and a half weeks; that was a surprise. I also learned that, if you really want to achieve your goal, you have to pursue every single solution,” Beatts wrote in an email to Mission Local.
He’d made offers on two other buildings before Haight Street panned out, and had toyed with other funding models before settling on the patron-loan approach.
“I think that we succeeded because we were clear on our goal and willing to consider any ethical way of accomplishing it,” he wrote.
When the sale closes, there’s still a question of whether Borderlands will immediately depart Valencia Street, where it still has three years left on its lease. It could feasibly offer the soon-to-be-empty Recycled Records space to an entrepreneur looking for a short-term lease.
The Borderlands Cafe will remain for now, since it’s on a separate lease that won’t run out until 2025.
Long term, Beatts has suggested previously that the building could — if finances allow and upstairs tenants move out of their own accord at some point — be used for a writer-in-residence program.
Beatts said he could see his approach to buying the Haight Street building, while unorthodox, working for other businesses.
“It requires a good reputation, good business sense and solid planning but, with those assets, I think it can work for many other businesses,” he wrote.
For now, Borderlands is getting ready to mark 20 years in business — the store opened in Hayes Valley on Nov. 3, 1997, and it will celebrate its anniversary on Nov. 18.