Stephen Sparks wants to make one thing clear: Green Apple Books didn't “save” Le Video — although it's easy to see how that misconception took hold.
When Books on the Park, Green Apple's newest outpost, opened last year on the ground floor of Le Video's 9th Avenue location, it seemed that the struggling movie shop had finally found a patron.
“For us, it wasn't a charitable act,” says Green Apple owner Pete Mulvhill. “If [Le Video] survived, it would have been because of what they do.”
But for a while, Le Video's survival was a big if. The sun set on the home movie rental market years ago, and while Le Video managed to limp along, business was hurting. Last spring, the store raised more than $60,000 on Indiegogo to help keep the doors open. But it needed a permanent fix.
At the same time, Green Apple was scouting for a second location.
“We had considered a second store on and off for a couple years,” Mulvhill says. “One of the trends we saw was that ebook [sales] had leveled off, and that print and ebooks were coexisting.”
One day, Mulvhill was browsing nextdoor.com, a neighborhood news site, when he came across a thread of Inner Sunset members lamenting Le Video's imminent demise.
“One of the comments was [about] sharing the space with someone else,” Mulvhill says. So he called Catherine Tchen, Le Video's owner, with a plan. Tchen told him it was the call she'd been waiting for.
The plan, which came to fruition, was for Books on the Park to occupy Le Video's bottom floor. It's a showroom space, with blond wood shelves stocked with new hardcovers made luminous by the store's track lighting. It's all in marked contrast to the arthritic staircase and overwhelmed shelves at Green Apple's Clement Street store.
Books on the Park caters to a different crowd than Clement Street, too. The store doesn't sell used books, for instance, only new releases at regular retail prices. It also hosts author appearances, which is impossible in Green Apple's crowded Richmond District digs. Overall, the offerings at Books on the Park are also more pop than culture — a copy of Coloring for Grown-Ups, anyone?
And while the Richmond District surrounding Green Apple's flagship location has changed dramatically over the decades, Books on the Park seems to complement its surroundings.
“[We get a lot of] people coming in and out; marathons end here,” Sparks says. “The 44 picks up right here and drops off.”
You also have to admit that a new store selling print products in the most digital city on earth has a maverick charm.
“We all have friends who work for Apple and Google — they all read books,” Sparks says. “The idea [here] is to foster that discovery. In some ways, we're tastemakers; in other ways, we represent the community.”
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