Adobe Books owner Andrew McKinley didn't have to think long when I asked him the corniest question of our interview, occasioned by the announcement that his store was in serious danger of having to close. Question: if you had to choose one book to describe your situation, what would it be? "It reminds me of The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurty," McKinley gamely responded. "It's about a movie theater in a small Texas town that's dying out."
But! ask Mission District bibliophiles. Can Adobe Books be saved? The answer, according to McKinley, lies in whether you have a buddy with $60,000 to save the future of SF books -- or better yet, $3 million.
McKinley has owned the store for the past 24 years, originally with a business partner. "I always dreamed of having a store filled with artists, poets, and writers," he told me. "Meeting people who want to be artists has been the best part." For decades, that's what he did -- he even opened a gallery space in the back that hosted near-monthly art openings. But times, they are a'changin' -- and rising real estate costs in the area have made it impossible for the bookstore to continue to exist in its prime location astride Valencia and 16th Streets. Granted, this isn't the first time the alarm has been sounded, but McKinley forsees having to close his doors for good at some point over the next few months.
Unless... and on this point he's almost reluctant to give us hope. Unless some "angel" descends from heaven (or the hills south of Dolores Park perhaps) to pluck Adobe from its doom. With $60,000, McKinley reckons he could keep the shop open for three more years -- that amount is approximately a year's rent on the space. With $3 million, said "golden angel" could buy the building and ensure that the inner Mission continues to have a place to buy dog-eared paperbacks and browse well-curated banks of sweet, sweet literature.
But. "I don't want to be a charity," says McKinley. "I feel that closure might be the best solution if no one can step into save it." The bookshopkeep allows that he hasn't exactly bent over backwards to adjust our times of Amazon.com and 140-character attention spans. He could have added a cafe to augment the business, he posits. Maybe started selling new and remaindered volumes.
But. There it is, he didn't, and now we're faced with losing yet another Mission bookstore to the march of time. (Granted, it's not all bad news for bookworms -- Modern Times Bookstore Collective was able to relocate to a gorgeous new location on 24th Street and the Dog-Eared Books family recently had a new baby not too far away in the form of Phoenix Books.)
Unless. McKinley says the notion of re-starting Adobe as a member-based collective has been thrown around by some of the shop's super fans. But that could be just the well-wishing of the community members he's held so dear over the years.
Just remember. "The knowledge in books is not as important to get by in this modern world," says McKinley. "People don't put together large collections of books as much. It is funny, more books have been created in the last few decades and more people can read than ever before." We read you, sir.
P.S., massive sale going on right now at Adobe Books.
3166 16th St., SF