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The Old Familiar Tale: Another Tiny, Beloved Bookstore Faces a Rent Spike and Uncertain Future 

Wednesday, Jul 9 2014

Melissa Richmond finds herself in the intersection of a Venn Diagram of San Francisco real estate stories. Since she's not a wealthy techie, or all that wealthy period, or apt to disrupt much of anything, this portends badly.

Richmond, the proprietor of Bibliohead Books at (for now) 334 Gough, runs a quirky, independent business of the sort eviscerated daily by chains, the internet, and internet chains. Her store, a mere 650 square feet, is piled high with a jaw-dropping array of books — some 25,000 by her reckoning. It's warm in here, Billy Bragg is on the soundsystem, and it smells, reassuringly, of gently aging paper and paste.

A used bookshop offering items for as little as a dollar stands out in Hayes Valley; but then, everything that's not a restaurant or a boutique stands out here. One of the above may soon grace this spot: In the final San Francisco cliché, Richmond's landlord of 10 years wants to double her rent, to $5,200 a month.

You'd have to move a lot of dog-eared copies of Rabbit, Run to make that.

In a departure from a simplistic story line, however, the rent hike is due in large part to the building's forthcoming retrofit. (The books here are often stacked up to 10 feet high — but that won't brace the structure during a quake.)

This week, Richmond has some difficult decisions to make. She may vacate the premises by August. Or she may do so on Dec. 31 — which would require packing up her shop in the heart of Christmas season. Returning to the site would mandate closing shop until at least May during construction. That's a death knell for a small bookshop. But relocating figures to be exorbitant, too.

Finally, it wouldn't be a treasured but imperiled San Francisco business story if an indiegogo account wasn't involved (

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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