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The Old Familiar Tale: Another Tiny, Beloved Bookstore Faces a Rent Spike and Uncertain Future 

Wednesday, Jul 9 2014

Melissa Richmond finds herself in the intersection of a Venn Diagram of San Francisco real estate stories. Since she's not a wealthy techie, or all that wealthy period, or apt to disrupt much of anything, this portends badly.

Richmond, the proprietor of Bibliohead Books at (for now) 334 Gough, runs a quirky, independent business of the sort eviscerated daily by chains, the internet, and internet chains. Her store, a mere 650 square feet, is piled high with a jaw-dropping array of books — some 25,000 by her reckoning. It's warm in here, Billy Bragg is on the soundsystem, and it smells, reassuringly, of gently aging paper and paste.

A used bookshop offering items for as little as a dollar stands out in Hayes Valley; but then, everything that's not a restaurant or a boutique stands out here. One of the above may soon grace this spot: In the final San Francisco cliché, Richmond's landlord of 10 years wants to double her rent, to $5,200 a month.

You'd have to move a lot of dog-eared copies of Rabbit, Run to make that.

In a departure from a simplistic story line, however, the rent hike is due in large part to the building's forthcoming retrofit. (The books here are often stacked up to 10 feet high — but that won't brace the structure during a quake.)

This week, Richmond has some difficult decisions to make. She may vacate the premises by August. Or she may do so on Dec. 31 — which would require packing up her shop in the heart of Christmas season. Returning to the site would mandate closing shop until at least May during construction. That's a death knell for a small bookshop. But relocating figures to be exorbitant, too.

Finally, it wouldn't be a treasured but imperiled San Francisco business story if an indiegogo account wasn't involved (

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" is a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly, which he has written for since 2007. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers... more


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