After nearly 40 years in business, the Castro’s (second to) last remaining bookstore, Aardvark Books, appears to be done as the one-story building it occupies at 227 Church Street has quietly hit the market with a $2.85 million price tag.

Purchased by the founder of Aardvark Books for $300,000 back in 1991, the 2,780-square-foot storefront is now leased to Aardvark’s new owner/operator.

And according to the marketing materials for the building: “The property will be delivered vacant at close of escrow and unencumbered by any leasehold interest(s).”

Also noted in the marketing materials, the 3,125-square-foot lot upon which the building sits “is a prime candidate for a mixed-use development project.” And we’ll note that the 227 Church Street parcel is zoned for development up to 40 feet in height.

30 thoughts on “Beloved Bookstore’s Days Appear to Be Numbered”
  1. Unless Safeway is included in any mixed-use redevelopment of its parcel(s), it should be rejected. Where are people supposed to supermarket shop, especially since cars will most likely be discouraged.

    1. Maybe Whole Foods, Bi-Rite or any number of smaller markets within 10 blocks? I hear you though. It’d be pretty lame if Safeway or some other large-scale grocer didn’t get in along with any redevelopment on that lot.

      1. Yeah, I hope there’s a grocery involved if that happened, too. Every Whole Foods in the city is constantly packed (both parking lot, if any, and the store itself); even if I wanted to limit myself to only their hilariously overpriced offerings, I don’t fancy waiting in lines 10-deep to check out, and having to throw elbows to get through the crowds. It’s especially bad at the time everyone wants to shop, such as 5PM-close and all the time on weekends.

  2. I know this is a pro-development site and nonetheless a pretty open minded platform for opposing views, so hats off to that. But… and its a big but… why isn’t anyone here but g above lamenting the loss of lovely bookstores. This is San Francisco and we are down to the threads on almost anything free and idle and not about “monetizing.” If they could, these same *boosters* for infill would love nothing more that to infill Golden Gate Park. It was highways in the 60’s and now its “transit oriented development.” In either case the goose and its golden egg of what makes San Francisco interesting are on the table for replacement with drab me-too ugly box housing. No thank you and a hats off to Aardvark…

    1. Probably b/c – rightly or wrongly – bookstores are widely perceived as doomed, so this escapes the usual “San Francisco is being ruined” spiel. (My own view tends toward the former, but w/ caveats that it’s an oversimplification.) So SF IS being ruined in this respect – perhaps that’s what your lamenting – but so is everywhere else….even Seattle, I imagine.

    2. Yes, but per the article, Aardvark’s founder is “monetizing” the building. Just like Elbo Room’s founders: they bought their building, they created Elbo Room, they sold Elbo Room and now they’re monetizing their building and will displace Elbo Room.

      1. There is nothing unique about a bookstore’s real estate requirements. Virtually any box retail space will do. I’m incredibly sad to see Aardvark potentially on the way out, as I have been about a million other bookstores. (Yes, I still read physical books, and I really like to browse for them in a store rather than on line…I’m a relic). But, this is definitely not an issue of just stopping folks from “monetizing” their assets. Bookstores are going away because folks aren’t buying physical books in physical bookstores. If the business were vital, Aardvark would simply move into one of the MANY retail vacancies in the neighborhood when confronted with this issue.

        1. The “MANY retail vacancies in the neighborhood” are vacant because the rent is too damn high.

          One of the few storefront businesses to thrive in the bubble 2.0 economy has been vanity restaurants funded by VCs with a little extra 0% Wall St scratch. They were willing to pay the exorbitant rents that have driven traditional business out of San Francisco because these restaurants are operating on the same business model as the tech startups: no need to turn a profit as long as the Wall St spigot is tuned on. Businesses like Aardvark have to actually turn a profit, so they can’t pay the insane rents nearby landlords think their properties are worth because a slew of tech titans have thrown millions of dollars into the SF food scene.

          Unlike with a commodity, unless s/he is underwater or has other urgent financial issues, a real estate owner is never obligated to sell or rent a property at a theoretical market-clearing equilibrium price. The owner can set whatever price s/he thinks is right, sit on it. Especially with working class subsidies of asset owners, such as Prop 13. This is one reason why RE is sticky on the way down, why it takes so long for declines in RE to become widely acknowledged.

          1. SF restaurants just operate on “the Wall St spigot” without regard for turning a profit? Okay, you’ve now officially jumped the shark (and, I suspect, you’ve never even spoken to a restaurant owner about the financial pressures of the business).

          2. While I agree with anon that you’re nuts about restaurants driving everyone out of business, completely agree on the whole part about how commercial property sitting vacant shows a failure of the market to function correctly. I shudder to suggest anyone in the incompetent SF government do anything other than resign from office, but I’d kinda like to see them throw out a ballot measure or something that imposed a tax on vacant space, at least in areas of the city where more density would be beneficial. I hate the idea of interfering with people’s property BUT SF is so small and housing is so expensive that something’s gotta give. I’d rather see absentee owners who sit on empty decaying buildings for 10 years ‘forced out’ of the city, than actual people.

      2. he is retiring. it’s his right to sell the building (“monetizing” as you like to condemn”. I’ve had it with fake progressives in this town. All I’ll say is, good for him and I hope he enjoys his retirement. You people need to get your heads out of your self righteous asses.

  3. I know it’s nitpicking, but having lived in the neighborhood for over 30 years, I’d hardly call this the Castro. It’s like calling Union Street Pacific Heights.

    1. It’s all micro, man. I think of the Church Street corridor as the greater Castro, but it’s basically the dividing line. And it’s always really hard to draw the lines. 😉

    2. I disagree, there are rainbow banners on the light standards on Church Street in the block from Market to 15th Street. These are the same as on other streets in Eureka Valley. I think the Castro Business District would include this block of Church Street.

    1. It shall be named henceforth “Church Street DMZ”, between mission dolores outer thug life zone and lower castro. Tho truth be told, everything’s fine till you pass Guererro, or really even Valencia these days.

  4. This has always been a local used book store. It is not, nor does it claim to be, a rare book store. The disappearance of used book stores nationwide –indeed worldwide– is most lamentable, but it has nothing to do with San Francisco.

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