By Sarah Han
The San Francisco Bay Guardian reported today that the San Francisco location of Marcus Book Stores, the oldest independently-owned African American bookstore in the nation, was unceremoniously closed on May 6. Marcus' owners arrived to find that the locks on their store had been changed by the landlords.
The 54-year-old bookstore, named after activist Marcus Garvey, had been at its current location, a Victorian at 1712 Fillmore Street for the past 33 years, but the building was foreclosed on when the owners missed a couple of rent payments, and the store was sold to the Sweis family (realtors/owners of Royal Taxi) in a bankruptcy auction for $1.6 million. For the last year and a half, Tamiko, Greg, and Karen Johnson have been trying to buy the building back, but the Sweis family raised the price of the building to $2.6 million (lowered from $3.2 million after public outcry made them realize what greedy jerks they were being).
Community and political support granted the bookstore landmark status and $1.85 million in pledges, but it wasn't enough to save the historic SF branch (the family owns a second location on MLK St in North Oakland). So Marcus Book Store in Fillmore, which has hosted important black authors and activists including Huey Newton, Angela Davis, and Toni Morrison, is closed, but the Johnsons aren't saying good-bye to SF forever. In an open letter on its gofundme page, the Johnson family is hopeful, "... to be continued. We will rise again in San Francisco."
Photo by Steve Rhodes via Flickr