After almost 40 years on Church Street, Aardvark Books will close up shop in January before handing the space over to a new owner.
According to Open Listings, the building at 227 Church St. that holds Aardvark Books ]sold on Sunday for $2.4 million. John Hadreas, who owns the bookstore and the building, first put it on the market in September 2017 for $2.8 million, but pulled the listing after the independent bookstore received an outpouring of support.
Employees got an unpleasant surprise Monday as media outlets published news of the sale. As of Tuesday afternoon, Hadreas had still not informed the bookstore’s staff about the building’s sale, says employee Mike Jacomella.
“We just know because it’s public knowledge,” Jacomella says. “For some reason, he’s just really reluctant to be forthcoming with us about much of it.”
What Jacomella does know is that the bookstore will remain open until January.
When 227 Church St. was first listed on Redfin in 2017, it was billed as having “development potential.” Hadreas was not available to comment by press time on who the new owner is or what their intentions are. But with a years-long process between proposal and building permits, it’s likely 227 will stand empty for a while, like a large number of its neighbors.
“There’s just fewer people coming into the neighborhood because there’s fewer things to do in the neighborhood,” longtime Aardvark employee David Lugen told SF Weekly in April.
Hadreas stated in 2017 that his five employees, who have been with Aardvark from 13 to 38 years each, would receive a “good payout” if he sold the building. But a new home for its famed bookstore cat, Owen, is up in the air.
Aardvark’s impending closure marks the end of another independent bookstore in San Francisco. There are about 57 left in the city, according to the city’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, a figure that includes comic-book shops, museum gift shops, and retailers with small book selections
Earlier this month, the agency granted 11 independent bookstores a total of $103,000 to help grow their businesses. Included are lesser-known stores like Just a Touch Christian Bookstore in the Bayview and East Wind Bookstore in Chinatown, alongside city favorites like Green Apple and Dog Eared Books.
“In addition to pressure from rising rents, bookstores face fierce competition from big box and online retailers,” OEWD said in a press release. “In order to remain competitive, small businesses must innovate to grow their customer base and sales.”
The grant is intended to help bookstores redesign their websites to garner more e-commerce revenue and grow book membership programs. It also comes with technical help on matters like long-term lease negotiations, marketing, management consulting, and human resources.
By OEWD calculations, the selected bookstores generate more than $9.8 million in annual sales, employ more than 100 people, host more than 40 free events each month, and have been around for an average of 21 years.
“Bookstores are invaluable for the communities and individuals they serve,” said Angel Cardoz, Director of the San Francisco Small Business Development Center, which contributed to the fund. “They inspire creativity, knowledge, and personal growth.”