How San Francisco Residents Saved Local Businesses

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– Retailers are undergoing something of a slow motion apocalypse. – More stores are closing
their doors for good. – I didn’t realize they
were really closing. – It’s all about their bottom line. – Any retailer that operates
brick and mortar stores has to start saying, if all
I do is distribute products I am going to go out of business. – The decision to close Borderlands was one of the more difficult decisions that I’ve made in my life. – This probably sounds like
a story you’ve heard before. Small bookstore besieged by rising costs goes out of business, but this story is different. This is a story about a
bookstore that survived. (upbeat music) This is Alan Beatts, the owner of Borderlands Books and
Cafe in San Francisco. – Borderlands is the largest
English language store specializing in science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and horror in the world. – For years Borderlands
has been a community hub in San Francisco’s Mission District. It’s a place where
people meet, share ideas, write screenplays or pretend to work while actually playing Minecraft. When San Francisco passed
a new minimum wage law, Alan Beatts supported it, but he also knew it would
put him out of business. Cafes and restaurants have the flexibility to raise their prices to
accommodate higher wages. Bookstores don’t. – Unlike almost every other
retail business out there, books have a price actually
printed on the cover. – So while the Borderlands
Cafe could potentially survive the bookstore wouldn’t. – If we didn’t increase our prices, we would be losing over $30, 000 a year. Borderlands is and was at that time, the best thing I’ve ever created, it meant a great deal to
a huge number of people and the idea of ending that was really, really unpleasant and very difficult. – Alan then decided to
hold the community meeting. People came to voice
their shock and sadness about the store closing,
but they also came with ideas about how to keep it open. – We received a lot of
the same suggestions that I was expecting that I
reconsidered and discarded. And then one gentleman asked
if it would be possible for us to create a membership
card that we could sell that would allow him
to pay more for books. And I thought that was possibly one of the dumbest, craziest
ideas I had ever heard. And I said, so who here
would be interested in doing something like that? Just raise your hand. 150 people who were present, about half of them raised their hands. – And yeah that is kind of a crazy idea, but it told Alan something important, at least some portion of the people who wanted to keep the store open were willing to pay to make it happen. They came up with a plan. They’d sell annual sponsorships for $100, that would come with
some membership perks. – We didn’t figure it was gonna work. We’re gonna keep on closing, but if we can get 300 sponsors by March 31 we’ll change course. And we announced it, and the
phone did not stop ringing. In 42 hours, we had 300 sponsors and by the end of 2015 there
would be almost 900 people who sponsored the store. – It’s been four years, and Borderlands has more than survived. With roughly 600 people
voluntarily sponsoring the store most years,
the community aspects of Borderlands have been
able to grow and thrive. And they’ve been so successful that they also crowdfunded the purchase of their own building to stay ahead of San Francisco’s rising rents. – What retailers are recognizing is that this is really the untapped
value that they can bring. – This is Doug. He’s a retail futurist. – It’s this notion of
gathering like-minded consumers in the same place and
letting them really enjoy, not just the category of product, but also enjoy the community of people that like that product as much as they do. – In other words, the stores
that already offer community and connection, just have to find a way to monetize it if they want to survive. Places like this. This is Leef Smith, the owner
of Mission Comics and Art, the comic shop around the
corner from Borderlands. And you can probably
guess where this is going. – Comic book stores are
thin margin business, they’re usually under-capitalized, and they’re a bit of, like,
canaries in the coal mine. – After several years of growth,
2017 hit Leef’s store hard and he wasn’t sure he’d be
able to continue operating. – So I planned a sort of
emergency community meeting to involve other people and see if something can be done
to keep the store open. – Like Borderlands, Mission
Comics began offering a way for customers to sponsor the store. The sponsorships have allowed
them to weather the storm and continue to maintain a
presence in the Mission District. – Shopping is human. We have a need to be out,
we have a need to commune, to enjoy things with people. Right from the very beginning of time, retail was about that personal connection, and so retail is now
rediscovering its function in society as being that gathering place. – People spend most of their
time in one of two places, they’re either at work
or they’re in their home. But there’s a third kind of place and it’s that social, public interaction. Bars serve that purpose,
coffee shops serve that purpose and I think that bookstores
serve that purpose as well. – It is a community touch point. As people’s lives change and grow there’s a lot of value in
the sort of consistency of going to your comic book store and talking to someone
that you’ve known for years about something that you’re
really passionate about. It’s valuable to me and now I see it’s really valuable to my customers. – For me, I want my kid to grow up in a city with bookstores. I’m willing to pay a little for that, the same way I’d support public radio or become a member of a museum. The storefronts in our communities are a statement of our values, so we better get creative
in supporting the shops that represent not just
the things we need to buy, but the things we love and aspire to. If you liked this video you’ll
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27 comments

  1. OH LOOK. Minimum wage hikes catapulting businesses to bankruptcy, and people into unemployment lines

  2. I'm glad that they're still book stores around it's really nice to see one still exist it's very rare to see one thanks to 1 Mega greedy company called Amazon the number one job killer of all mom and pop stores and the biggest gross consumer of cardboard anywhere when it comes to packaging their crap actually when you think about it you can thank the computer nerds keyboard Warriors and Techy Geeks that sit on their behinds all day banging away on their keyboards putting mom and pop shops and brick-and-mortar stores out of business. PS I would love to see the good old days come back around again but it's not really going to happen not in my lifetime.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. It saddens me to notice a new business popup because it probably mean the previous business there couldn't make it. I'm glad there are others who feel the same way like I do about caring for our local businesses.

  4. Politics being where they are, I couldn't find a practical reason to congrigate in this environment.

  5. I am a Borderlands sponsor and itโ€™s the best money Iโ€™ve ever spent. They have special events for sponsors, and I am happy and proud to support an awesome local business.

  6. Why are rents being raised? Do the landlord have clients that bring in more money. I've seen this time and time again. Stubborn landlords who would sooner have their storefronts closed for months or even years at a time instead of leasing at a lower price point. Where is the market sense in that?

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