Next chapter: Adobe Books hopes to transition into co-op

Pub date February 19, 2013
SectionPixel Vision

Adobe Books lives on… we hope. The Mission’s beloved 23-year-old bookshop – which reported it would be going out of business multiple times last year – now has plans to stay open as a collective.

Adobe owner Andrew McKinley first reported his shop would be closing in spring of 2012, and then again late summer. His reason: an excessive rent increase for his storefront, in a building at 16th and Valencia Streets. Unless someone was planning to swoop down to be the store’s financial superhero, the proposed rent was too high and McKinley was sure he could no longer afford to keep the shop afloat.

In January, Adobe announced it would hold a final farewell celebration honoring what McKinley has done for the neighborhood. But despite this so-called goodbye ceremony, the shop did not close. McKinley’s superheroes have at long last arrived, in the form of a co-op board.

Jeff Ray, a longtime member of the Rainbow Grocery collective, is a main player in Adobe’s new phase. Ray became a Mission resident 15 years ago. He remembers Adobe as one of the first neighborhood spots he connected with. “They call it the living room of the Mission and it was kind of my living room for awhile,” he says. “I went to a lot of events and met a lot of people there.” 

Ray and fellow Adobe collective member Kyle Knobel say the first thing they are working out is a location. They are in the process of negotiating the costly rent that was McKinley’s stumbling block, but are also considering relocating to different space nearby if necessary.

The nine-or-so core members – who meet at Adobe on a weekly basis – are also sorting out what type of co-op suits them best. Ray mentions following the business model of Chicago–based co-op, Seminary Bookstore – who list Michelle and Barack Obama as members. With over 50,000 members, anyone can buy in when they purchase three $10 shares. Seminary Bookstore has shareholders all across the globe, a worldwide support system Ray would love for Adobe. 

Ray and Knobel say they envision incorporating additional elements to their new shop’s bookshelves to keep it profitable. The recession-friendly phrase “pop-up” is thrown around quite a bit. Ray says they plan to set up a small pop-up space with Inner Richmond retail shop and art gallery Park Life and has an idea for transforming bookcases into miniature pop-ups for local music labels and magazine companies, possibly selling original artwork, maybe even setting up an art subscription for interested customers. All of this will not be possible without a little help, which is why they have recently launched a fundraising IndieGoGo campaign.

Will the shop’s current beloved owner Andrew McKinley be sticking around? Ray says, “we wanted to make sure he was part [of the switch]. He has been present at every meeting and is hopefully going to stay on.”

On paper, these plans sound ideal – a dying bookshop rising from the ashes in a familiar, yet updated form. It will likely be a long process before the new collectively-run shop becomes a reality. But if we’ve learned anything about the seemingly invincible Adobe Books, it’s that it will manage to stick around, somehow.