Monday, November 13, 2017

Sponsor Letter, November 13th 2017

Hello Dear Sponsors,

First off, thank you for being patient with my recent silence (although, given how I have been flooding your mail boxes over the past month, you might have enjoyed the break).  After the combination of going a month without a day off, being out of town at the World Fantasy Convention, and then catching up on everything that I had let slide over the last month (bookkeeping, for one) . . . well, let's just say I needed a little breather.

Before I dive into the current building news, let me catch you up on our upcoming events.  Right now we've only a few scheduled -

Saturday, November, 18th, 10 am to 11 pm (yup, you read the time right) - Borderlands 20th Anniversary Party (and Sponsor Social) - All the details are at the end of this note but the short version is:
Noon to 6 pm - Author signings galore (including folks like Gail Carriger, Richard Kadrey, and Peter Beagle) plus staff recommended books at cost, cake, and DJ Steve Boyett.
6 pm to 7 pm - We'll be setting up for the social but you're welcome to hang out.
7pm to 11 pm - Sponsor Social!  Indian food to die for, lotsa drinks, more DJ, silly stories from Alan, door prizes, much talk of Haight Street and world domination.
11 pm to ??? - If you're still standing (I don't need to be standing -- Jude's got a wheelbarrow for me), close-down drinks across the street at the Phoenix Pub.

Tuesday, November 28th at 7 pm - Sponsor Cocktails at Churchill
We're continuing our Monthly Sponsor Cocktail night at Churchill (198 Church Street at Market) <http://www.churchillsf.com/>; some combination of us will be there from at least 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm.  No need to RSVP and any number of guests and friends are welcome.  The bar is INCREDIBLY convenient to public transit -- the MUNI Metro Underground (via F, K, L, and M lines at Church Street,) and J and N lines stop less than a block away.

Sunday, December 10th, 2 pm to 6 pm - Dickens Fair
We're going to Dickens Fair as a group <https://dickensfair.com>.  We've arranged group tickets for $20 per person and there's no limit to the number of people who can come so please feel free to bring friends, family, children, strangers you met at the bar last night, and so on.  If you'd like to come, please drop us a line by replying to this email and include the number of people you will be bringing.  We'll get back to you and make arrangements for pre-payment for the tickets.  Look for car-pooling information in the next sponsor note.

In the next sponsor note I'll have the schedule of events for the first part of next year, details about sponsorship renewals, mail order information for anniversary hoodies and lots of other news.  But for now, we still need to work out all those details.

Now, some news about our new building.  First off, it's paid for and escrow will close on Tuesday.  I've got a long piece explaining where we go from here in the store newsletter, which I'll be sending out shortly after (or, perhaps, before) this note.  Something that I'm not mentioning in the newsletter is that we've got an official building historian and he's been damn busy over the past few weeks.

Zach Harper has been a sponsor since the very beginning (and part of the first 300 -- #260 to be precise).  He got interested in finding out a bit about the history of 1377 Haight St. and did a bit of digging.  And then he caught the city-history bug (something that afflicts Jude and I, BTW).  He's still working on the previous occupants of the building but he's got an awful lot of the history nailed down already.  You can see his work thus far at -https://docs.google.com/document/d/1K6LYhBN0A3cvqvldjvTbeUPopjlOxEubYENKp12hlrc/edit?usp=sharing .  It's so cool what he's found -- from the original advertisement when the lot was sold at auction through the old Sanborn Fire Insurance maps and even bios of the owners and the architect.  We are still very short on historic pictures of the place so, if you run across any, drop me a line and I'll pass them along to him.

In other building news, I'm going to be hanging around the place this Thursday, November the 16th, from 4 pm to 8 pm.  If you'd like to come down, take a look at the space, say hi, and chat with me about layout and future plans -- I'd love to see you and show off our new House on the Borderland.  The address is 1377 Haight St. and it's just east of Masonic Avenue.

I'm really looking forward to seeing you, either at the building, at the party, or at Dickens Fair.  We really do have an awful lot to celebrate!

All Best,
Alan

Complete Anniversary Party Details

Borderlands 20th Anniversary Party, Saturday, November 18th, 10 am to 6 pm - We're celebrating two decades of bookselling with an all-day party.  At noon, the store will open to the general public and the fun really starts.  We'll have a rotating lineup of some of our favorite local authors signing their work in half-hour blocks. The schedule is:

12:00 pm: Dana Fredsti, Nick Mamatas, Megan E. O'Keefe, and Tim Pratt; 1:00 pm: Peter S. Beagle, Michael Blumlein, Becca Gomez Farrell, and Nancy Jane Moore; 2:00 pm: Richard Kadrey, Ellen Klages, and Pat Murphy; 3:00 pm: Charlie Jane Anders and Annalee Newitz; 4:30 pm: Cara Black and Kelli Stanley; 5:00 pm: Steve Boyett & Ken Mitchroney, Gail Carriger, and Katherine Kerr.

Also, as long as supplies last, we'll have our staff's selection of their all-time favorite books for sale at our cost as a "thank you" for 20 wonderful years of bookselling.  Last but not least, we'll be unveiling our limited edition anniversary hoodie featuring a lovely design by Michelle Rapp.  It's right on time for the chilly season and would make a great holiday present for the booklover in your life.

At four, the music starts, courtesy of DJ Steve Boyett of Groovelectric and Podrunner fame - http://www.groovelectric.com (since there's going to be music, we might just have to start our afternoon cocktails around then, too).  Also at four there will be an extraordinary cake, thanks to the incomparable Madeleine Robins.

Then come 6 pm we'll be closing early to get ready for our last sponsor party of 2017.  We hope you'll join us for an incredible day!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Building Update #10 - Signed, Sealed, and Delivered

Hi Everyone,

We've finished negotiations about the price reduction on the building.  There was a little back and forth but not as much as I expected.  Thanks to the fast work of Diarmuid MacNiell and Jon Fitzgibbon, we had estimates for a total of roughly $115,000 of repair work.  Specifically; repairing the retaining wall in the backyard, sorting out the funky framing in the basement, doing a soft-story retrofit, and replacing the roof.

The negotiation was pretty fast since two of those items we knew about going in (the roof and the soft-story).  It would be pretty disingenuous to say that we hadn't considered those costs when we made our offer and so we started asking for $70,000 off.  With a little back-and-forth, we settled for $41,000 off the agreed price.  Since the two things we didn't know about going in (the basement and the retaining wall) were estimated at at total of $42,000, I think we did pretty well.  I might have been happier with an extra thousand dollars but, when we're doing a two-million-plus dollar deal, $1000 is kind of small change.  I didn't think it was worth fighting over.

So, excluding closing costs, the final price was $2,259,000.  And that feels really darn good.  It also means we've got a bit of a surplus since we were aiming for a $100,000 repairs budget and now we've got $141,000.  I think that the best plan is to get the repairs done and then see where we stand.  I expect that I'll use the surplus to pay off some loans early but we'll see how things shake out once the hammers hit the nails.

The most exciting thing is that all the contingencies have been removed as of this evening.  Since those are the only ways out of the deal for both the buyer and the seller, with them taken care of it's just a matter of finishing the escrow period and then were done.  Translation -- there isn't any work left to do (other than lots of planning) and it's very unlikely that anything is going to happen at this point to derail the deal.

I'm going to be talking with the seller to see if we can close sooner.  There isn't an advantage to taking a longer time and, the sooner it's closed, the sooner we can get in there and start working.  I'll probably need to give the seller more time to get his stuff out of the place (since it's reasonable to figure that he planned on being out based on the original closing date) but that won't stop us from tearing out ivy, cleaning up the basement, getting measurements taken and plans drawn up.

It's all coming together very nicely.

Which is good; because I'm on a plane tomorrow at 7 am for San Antonio and the World Fantasy Convention.  I'll be back in town Monday night and back at work on Tuesday.  If you're going to the convention, make sure you let me know and I'll get you an invitation to our Sponsors' Scotch tasting on Saturday afternoon at 3:00 pm.

Since I'll be at the convention and running around quite a bit, please forgive me if I'm less responsive than usual to email.  Scott Cox is coming along and so he'll be a bit slow in the email department as well.

Thank you all for everything you've done for Borderlands over the years.  Day after tomorrow will be exactly 20 years to the day since I opened the shop's doors in Hayes Valley.  It's been a hell of a trip and I'm looking forward to the next 20 years with unbridled hope and excitement.  At the beginning of 2015, I never imagined that we'd all be here and doing this.

All Best,
Alan

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Building Update #9 - WE DID IT!

As of about 60 minutes ago, we had enough funds in the bank to pay for the building.  I cannot tell you how happy and excited I am about this.  It truly is a dream come true.

More than that though -- we've shown our city, our field, and the world what is possible.  A few days ago I was talking with one of our lenders in the office. He thanked me for changing the way that people look at the world and expanding what people believe is possible.  I was surprised and kind of embarrassed by the sentiment.  I'm not some big deal mover-and-shaker; I'm just a guy who likes to sell books.

But then I thought about it a bit and pointed out to him that I didn't do that.  We all did.  My part was suggesting that the world could be different and that something kind of crazy might be possible.  You all, our sponsors and the folks who lent us money and those that supported us in a hundred other ways, too -- you're the people who changed how people can look at the world and you expanded the idea of what is possible.  And I would expect no less from lovers of speculative and fantastic literature.

First, you did it by being sponsors and allowing us to continue to operate.  Then you proved that idea wasn't just a one-shot, flash-in-the-pan but that it was a viable idea for the long term (we have more sponsors this year than last year; the program is growing, not shrinking).  Those things were the basis and foundation that gave me the confidence and hope to try what we just accomplished.

And we did this:  49 lenders in total, $1.9 million dollars, in 18 days.

Thank you all for making a dream come true and showing just how powerful a like-minded, reasonable group of people can be.

Warmest Regards,
Alan

PS  There is one other group that deserves credit for what we've done -- the staff at the Bookstore and Cafe.  They are so good at what they do that I hardly had to think about work for the past 18 days.  Further, they are the people who truly give shape to Borderlands.  I'd just be a lonely guy in a tiny bookshop without them.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Building Update #8 - Right Down to the Wire

Funds on Deposit - $1,777,500              Days Left - 1

Hello,

Of course this whole thing had to end up with a photo-finish.  And, of course, this couldn't end on any day other than Halloween.  I mean really . . . why did any of us think otherwise?

As you can see above, we are really, truly, awful goddam close.  But we're not quite there yet.

I fully expect that I'll see one or two deposits at the bank tomorrow that will take us right across the $1.8 million line.  As soon as I see them, I'll let you all know.

If I don't see those deposits, don't worry.  I'm not going to let a measly $22,500 stop us after we've raised so much.  That figure can be covered by the deposit reserve that I have at the store.  It can also probably be covered if all of us at the bookstore clean out our rainy-day reserves.  There are a dozen ways we can raise that in time.

But, dammit, I really hoped to be writing a different note today.

However, see my comment above -- it kind of had to work out this way.

As a good friend often says, "Now that's out of the way, how about a bright, shiny change of topic?"

What Do We Do First?
Dan, our realtor, asked me a couple days ago, "So, once escrow is closed and Bruce has his stuff out of there, what's the first thing you're going to do?"

In reply, I asked, "Do you mean in general or with the retail space?"

He chuckled and said he was asking about the retail space.

"First off, a lotta people, a lotta beer, a lotta whisky, and probably some pizza," was my answer.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Building Update #7

Funds on Deposit - 1,692,500              Days Left - 4

Greetings and Salutations,

You may notice that I've changed the heading at the top of this note from "Funds Raised" to "Funds on Deposit".  The reason for that is we're really in the final days of this gig and it's reached a point where it doesn't matter what people have promised us -- the only thing that matters, for the sake of this project, is what is in the bank come Halloween.  So, rather than including what people have said they're going to do, the number at the top of this note is only what is on deposit.  Don't worry though, we're not out of time by any means.  Even though today was the last day that I said would work for deposits, at the time I said I was allowing for a margin of error.  We've still got four days.  Wire transfers and cashiers checks will still be credited in time, even if they are wired (or handed off to me, for the checks), as late as the morning of the 31st.

Now that I've gotten the doom and gloom out of the way, here's the good news -- I'm almost sure we're gonna have the money in time.

I believe we're gonna get that building.

Building Update #6 - Very Close

Funds Raised - $1,622,500     Days Remaining - 4

Hello All,

Are you getting nervous?  I am, sort of.  We're very damn close to making it.  Remember, I'm aiming for $1,900,000 to allow $100,000 for closing costs, build out and repairs. We can close the deal at $1.8 million.  Which is $177,500 from where we are now.

I'm talking to a couple of people who might be able to do some bigger loans but I'm not going to hear from them 'till tomorrow.  Well, 'til Friday, which is technically today.  If I don't hear from them then, we might be able to come to an agreement on Saturday or Sunday but the funds can't move until Monday, when we have two days left.  That'll make for a nervous weekend, eh?

But, here's the thing -- even if we don't pull it off this time, there'll be another building, and we've proven that we can raise over one and a half million dollars in less than three weeks.

One.  And.  A.  Half.  Million.  Dollars.

That's a hell of an accomplishment and it'll serve us well if we have to do this again.

But I'm hoping we don't need to do this again.  Honestly, I feel optimistic.  We've done so much in the past week and we've got a whole weekend and two days ahead of us. Plus, I've still got a few tricks up my sleeves.  Something that both my former profession and 20 years in this business has taught me is to have a back-up plan . . . and a back-up for that . . . and a back-up for the second back-up.  Right now, we're still working on the primary plan, which is the one with the best overall outcome.  But it's not the only plan.

Anyway, enough about that.  Last word is this -- if you're on the fence, now's the time to decide if you want to make a loan.  And, if you've talked with me about a loan and haven't finished off the deal, get in touch and let's get finished -- I'm totally fine with, "We thought about it and we decided that it's not a good idea" but, not knowing where we stand is kind of hard.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Building Update #5

Funds Raised - $1,422,500     Days Remaining - 7

Hey Everyone,

OK.  Much better rested than last night but I've got to run out of here fast because I'm meant to be at Churchill pretty much . . . now.

You're all wondering about the inspections.  First off, they went well.  We had general building and sewer inspections plus a roofer came in to give a bid for replacing the roof (no surprise -- the roof does need to be replaced, but we expected that).

The general building inspector was the best I've ever seen.  His name is James Hicks and he is one of the partners at H.R. Wellington Construction.  He's been a builder for years and he's qualified to do both general and pest inspections.  He's also a medic and does volunteer search and rescue work, so we hit it off like a house-a-fire.

Bottom line is that it's a 1902 building with all that goes with it.  A little bit of dry rot on the siding, old breaker panels (not hard to replace and not urgent), and so forth.  The only two notable things were that the framing in the basement (that I mentioned to you all before) is, in fact, a bit funkier than I thought.  It looks like the job of abating dry-rot that was done is the 1970s wasn't top-notch and probably needs some fixing.  On the other hand, it didn't look like anything had moved much since that job was done, so this isn't one of those situation where a wall is tilting and going to keep tilting 'til it's fixed (or falls over).  But, it is a big enough thing that I think we'll be talking with the seller about a price reduction to make up for it.

The other thing that he called out was that there are some cracks in the retaining walls in the backyard.  There's a big tree that belongs to one of the neighbors that is right up against the wall and may be pushing on it.

Building Update #4

Funds Raised - $1,292,500     Days Remaining - 8

Dear Sponsors,

I was planning to give you a detailed update about the building inspections today (yesterday, actually, since it's 1:58 am), but here it is already Tuesday morning, and I've been going since 7:30 am.  I gotta say, I'm pretty beat.  If I try to get into specifics about the inspections, I'm going to make word-salad. The short version is that the inspections went really well; better than I could have anticipated.  I'm meeting my structural engineer and contractor to get some analysis and estimates on Wednesday and . . . . I'm going to tell you about the inspections tomorrow.

It was a good weekend for fund-raising as you can see.  And that's it for building news 'til I get some sleep.

But, some event reminders before I go:

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Building Update #3

Funds Raised - $825,000   Days Remaining - 11

Greetings,

I've got several bits of news, but I'll lead with the most important one.

Fund Raising
As you can see, the fund raising continues, albeit at a slower pace than at the start.  The slow down makes sense, actually.  At first, the loans were coming from people who were ready to go and, in some cases, they were people I had talked with in advance.  Now, it's people who need more time to think about it and make arrangements.  But, I'm not discouraged at all.  $825,000 are only the loans that I'm sure of -- either the lender has committed to making the loan or the funds are already in the bank.  There are another $400,000 in loans in which I'm still working out the final details for, but that I feel pretty confident about.  Finally, there are some other lenders that I still need to reach out to personally.  Bottom line, we're going to be close, but I'm not sure we're going to make by relying on only larger loans.

Considering that, I think it's time to open things up for smaller amounts.  My initial reason for looking for larger loans was the desire to keep the number of people involved to a minimum so that my bookkeeping work would be more manageable.  Not that it would be that big a job with 300 lenders but, I may have a few other things to work on in the coming months.

If you are in a position to offer a loan between $10,000 and $75,000, I'd love to talk with you about the details.  The general terms of the loan are 3% interest paid annually and the loan to be paid back in nine years (but I could potentially pay it off earlier).  The loans are secured by the building so they are pretty safe (barring a huge earthquake).  There is room for changes if you would like them (e.g. interest rate can be as low as 2% or as high as 4%, interest can be paid quarterly, and the term can be shorter or longer) and the amount can be anything from $10,000 and up.

In terms of transferring the funds to me, there are a couple of different deadlines, depending on how the money is coming.  Remember, if I don't have confirmed funds in the bank by October 31st, I'm going to have to cancel the deal.  Since that is only 11 days away, the latest that a personal check is sure to work will be noon on Monday, the 23rd (unless the check is from Bank of America; I'll explain that in a second).  Any later and the funds might not be confirmed by our bank in time for the 31st.  Checks from Bank of America are an exception since that's where the company accounts are located and the confirmation is instant.  As a result, BofA checks could be as late as Friday, the 27th. Electronic fund transfers should be sent by Thursday, the 26th, to be safe.  Cashier's checks and wire transfers can be delivered to me (in the case of cashier's checks) or sent (in the case of wire transfers) by Friday, the 27th.  All those dates are erring on the safe side but that's how I'd prefer to err.

As you can see, we need to move pretty quickly if this is going to work out.  I am available to meet with you anytime and anyplace in San Francisco to discuss details or to pick up checks.  I'm also available anytime by phone at 415 385-5968 to answer questions or merely discuss the loan.  If there is any information that will assist your decision, please don't hesitate to ask.  I'll also be around the shop all day tomorrow (Saturday) if you want to drop by and chat.

One last thing -- if the deal doesn't work out for any reason, I'll be returning the loan amounts with interest to date, within a week of October 31st, two weeks at the outside.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Building Update #2

Funds Raised - $650,000   Days Remaining - 13

Hey Folks,

On Monday I said that I'd go into the whole inspections and estimates part of the process later because it was a long post.  That follows but, if you're not interested in all those details, you can skip the end of this note.  But I do have some other stuff that might interest you.

First off, we're in the news again.  Both Hoodline and Mission Local posted pieces about what we're doing:
Mission Local - https://missionlocal.org/2017/10/saved-by-sponsorships-borderlands-books-now-aims-to-buy-a-building/
Hoodline - http://hoodline.com/2017/10/borderlands-books-moves-to-buy-recycled-records-building

Secondly, with Jeremy's invaluable help, I've put up a section on our website about this project.  There are some documents up there that give more details about the building. There's also a current picture.  If you looked at the place on Google street view it was a uniform (and ugly) gray color.  It's been painted since and the current picture is much more appealing.  Go to https://borderlands-books.com/building/  It's password protected -- if you want access, please drop me a line.   I'll be adding anything of interest, including some more pictures, up there as I get it.

Now, how about a deep dive into building inspections?

Building Update #1

Funds Raised - $500,000  Days Remaining - 15

Hi All,

I hope you had a nice weekend.  Mine was, as you might expect, pretty busy.  We've been selling books off-site all week at the various Litquake events around town, which . . . was some work.  We did 12 off-site events in 6 days.  On Friday we had three different events that we were at -- two of them at the same time.  And, on Wednesday, there were two simultaneous events at the same time as the Internet Archive anniversary party.  That would have been fine except Jude and I were both scheduled to work at the party.  So, Z'ev sold books at one event and Maddy sold them at the other while Jude and I worked the party.  I'm very glad that all the management folks at Borderlands are cross-trained to work in either the bookstore or the cafe.

But that was all just a warm-up for Saturday when we hosted two events as part of the Lit Crawl, one in the bookstore and one right afterwards in the cafe, each with four authors participating.  If that wasn't enough, Z'ev and I were so busy scheduling around all the events last week, we forgot to schedule extra staff at the cafe that evening.  Z'ev and Isabel did an impressive job of holding down the fort in the cafe, in spite of lines that went to the door at times.

Despite all the excitement, I managed to get a fair amount of work done on the building purchase.  As of now, our funding stands at $400,000 with another $100,000 in contingent funds.  I've also started several conversations that may lead to additional loans (one of them well over $100,000).  I'm not exactly relaxed but things do seem to be going in a positive way.

Now seems like a good time to give an overview of what we need to get done in the next 15 days.  The job falls into three parts; getting financing, setting up the legal structure, and getting inspections and estimates.  The discussion about inspection and estimates is long so I'm going to save that for my next update.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Sponsor Letter, October 13th 2017

My Dear Sponsors,

I have some very exciting news.  On Monday I submitted an offer to buy the building on Haight Street that I've been talking about.  And, on Wednesday morning, the offer was accepted.  It's possible we're going to have a permanent home for Borderlands!

The Building
Located just a bit east of Masonic Ave, the building is a three story Victorian built in 1902.  There are two large flats upstairs and a retail space on the ground floor.  There is also a backyard and a full basement.  It's a little bit smaller that our current spot but, by putting the office and storage in the basement and being smarter with the layout, I think we can fit all our current stock and more.  Sadly, there is no room to accommodate the cafe. (Please note -- that does not mean I'm planning on closing the cafe.  More on that later.)

The address of the store is 1373 Haight.  If you try to look at it on Google street view, the place that pops up is actually across the street so "turn" south.  Currently it's the location of Recycled Records but, when we move, we're not going to displace them.  The owner of the record shop owns the building and he's planning on retiring.  He'll be closing up shop and moving out shortly after the sale closes.  He's still open for now so, if you'd like to take a look at the place, you can.  But, if you decide to visit, please don't worry about the condition of the interior -- both the bookstore and the cafe were in much, much worse shape when we arrived.  When we're done, it will be beautiful.

The Catch
Here's the catch -- I need to raise a lot of money if this is going to happen.  Due to the price and having a very low down payment, the lenders that I've spoken to are not interested in financing the purchase.  So, I'm going to need personal loans for a significant portion of the price.  Having started on Monday to raise the money, I already have $265,000.  But I need to raise . . . $1,900,000 in total.

I don't know if this is going to be possible but I believe it is worth trying.  We have, including today, 19 days to get the money.  After 19 days, I cannot cancel the deal without losing our deposit.

On one hand, I think it's ridiculous for me to think that achieving this is even within the realm of possibility.

On the other hand, two and a half years ago, I was just about positive that we were going to close the shop.  If someone had told me what would happen when we started the sponsor program, I would have thought they were completely nuts.

I was talking with someone last night about this deal and they asked me if I was freaking out about it.  I realized that I wasn't.  There have been a few times in my life when it just didn't matter whether I succeeded or failed.  All that mattered was that I act with a clear mind and follow the course that I had set.  This is one of those times.

If we succeed, we will have removed the greatest obstacle that exists to my dream of creating a bookstore that can last and last and last.  On second thought, perhaps I should say, "our dream".

You're a sponsor because you want Borderlands to continue to exist.  In the 20 years that I've been in business, rent has steadily trended upwards in San Francisco.  If we don't ensure the cost of our location -- we will have to close at some point.  I don't know when it will be but I'm sure it will happen.  Only by owning it ourselves can we rely on the physical space which we must have to exist.

The Loan
So, let's give it a try, shall we?

I'm looking for lenders who can offer loans of $100,000 or more.  If you're one of those people, let me know by replying to this note or emailing me directly at abeatts@borderlands-books.com.

I'm flexible on the terms of the loan.  But I do have a rough outline of what is most desirable (and, I know what's impossible).  To give a decent return on a (relatively) small amount while also keeping the expense in the range that we can manage, I've been thinking of 3% interest.  To allow a reasonable amount of time to get our feet under us, a term of 9 years would be nice.  Paying interest-only makes the bookkeeping easy as well as suiting some other factors.  But, to be absolutely clear: none of that is set, including the interest rate.  I would take a lower rate and I'm willing to talk about higher rates.  In short, if you would be willing to consider that loan under terms that are to be determined, please get in touch and let's discuss it.  We've gotten this far by being imaginative and talking about ideas, it would be dumb to stop now.

If you would be interested in lending but have a smaller amount in mind, I appreciate that very much.  For now however, I'm trying to keep the total number of loans down by asking for a higher amount.  That may change as things move along.

The Last Word
I'm sure that you have a lot of questions:  When would we move?  How are you going to manage the upkeep?  What are the apartments upstairs like?  How has the process been so far? and so on.  I was going to write a big, long note that would try to answer all that stuff but I decided not to do that.  The important thing is to get the word out and start finding the loans.

So, instead of writing a enormous missive tonight, I'm going to spread all the info out over the next couple of weeks.  I normally don't send out more than one email per month but this is a special situation.  I figure you'd like to know how we're progressing so I'm going to be writing frequently until either the deal goes through or the deal dies.  (If frequent emails are bugging you, please don't unsubscribe -- just drop a note to sponsors@borderlands-books asking us to stop pestering you.  We'll temporarily remove you from the email list.)

The Real Last Word
If you have a personal policy of not lending money.
Or, if that sort of amount is completely out of your reach (it sure as hell would be for me, personally).
Or, if you think that what I'm doing is just a bad idea.
Or, . . . any of the thousands of reasons that you can't or won't make a loan.

Please, don't feel badly.  You sponsored Borderlands.  You and your compatriots are the only reason we're still around.  You've already done so much for us, we feel gratitude of a magnitude that we can't express.  There is no need to do more, unless you wish to and it is safe for you to do so.

Warm Regards,
Alan

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Sponsor Letter, October 3rd 2017

Dear Sponsors,

Advisory Group

One of the things I appreciate about you all is how willing you've been to give me advice.  I appreciate even more how good, cogent and considered that advice has been.  But, there are times when questions come up suddenly and need to be answered before the next Sponsor Note is scheduled.  Also, sometimes major questions come up that I need to have face-to-face discussions about (like last year when I was talking with small groups of sponsors about how to fund a building purchase).  So, I've decided to create an advisory group composed of sponsors.  There aren't any required qualifications aside from the willingness to reply to email promptly and come to monthly meetings in San Francisco. The members of the board will be asked to advise on a wide range of matters regarding the operation of the store and the sponsorship program.  Members may also be asked to volunteer to work on specific projects.  If you're interested in serving, please drop me an email and we'll go from there.

Building News

First off, thank you to everyone who wrote with their thoughts and advice about moving to Haight Street.  There were a couple of consistent comments that I received.  Many people felt that moving so much farther away from BART would be a problem.  I agree with that 100% but, proximity to BART is desirable enough that it affects building prices.  I don't want to move out of the Mission District but, we may not have a choice if we're going to purchase a building.  And I do think we need to buy a building if possible, for all the reasons I've discussed in the past.  On the bright side, a number of very public-transit-savvy sponsors pointed out that there are a number of pretty simple and direct bus options to get from BART to upper Haight.  Granted, the buses in San Francisco kind of suck but that's better than nothing.  My final conclusion is that the lack of BART access might be a deal breaker, but that's something I'm going to determine if and when it looks like we might be able to work a deal on a building.  The flip side of those comments is that there were also a number of folks who wrote me saying that upper Haight is much closer to them and that it would make it much easier to visit the shop.

Another comment was that the street situation on upper Haight is less than stellar.  The young street kids that panhandle in the area can be somewhat aggressive and there's a minority of them that are real trouble-makers.  I agree with that assessment completely but, I think that the actual threat is probably lower there than it is on Valencia St.  It is certainly lower there than it is on Mission Street.  On upper Haight the problem is mostly ne'er-do-well homeless kids.  In the Mission the problem is gang members, drug dealers, and armed robbers -- all folks who are much more low-profile than street kids and also profoundly more dangerous.  But, the comfort of our customers is something that needs to be considered and it's not fun to be aggressively panhandled.  So, I don't think that consideration is a deal-breaker but it certainly is a downside.

On the positive side of the equation, the neighborhood is more diverse from a shopping standpoint than the Mission. There are two other bookstores there, three music stores, great used clothing stores, and so on.  From a retail standpoint, it's the way Valencia Street was ten years ago. It is also more centrally located within the city.  And, of course, there the final advantage - it's a building of the right sort that we might be able to afford.

Overall, the response from you was slightly in favor of the location and so I'm going to keep pursuing it.  The building is supposed to hit the market on Monday so I should have some news about it in the next sponsor note.

Note:  As usual, to RSVP for any event, just reply to this email and we'll take care of the rest.

Jingle version:

Note:  Based on a suggestion at the General Meeting in March, we started a monthly game night at the cafe.  After a strong start, attendance has been dropping steadily and so we're going to stop doing it on a monthly basis.  Next year we'll certainly have at least one game night and we might consider doing it quarterly.

(1) Wednesday, October 11th at 5:00pm - Free tickets to The Internet Archive's anniversary party.

(2) Sunday, October 22nd at 2:00pm - Sponsor Picnic at Golden Gate Park. A (hopefully) sunny day in the park with grill and friends.

(3) Tuesday, October 24th at 7:00 pm - Cocktail night at Churchill.  Time to enjoy the company of fellow sponsors at a great little bar on Church and Market called Churchill (198 Church Street at Market).

(4) Saturday, November 4th at 3:00 pm - Sponsor's Scotch Tasting at the World Fantasy Convention in San Antonio, Texas.

(5) Saturday, November 4th at 9:00 pm - World Fantasy Convention party for Borderlands 20th Anniversary in San Antonio, Texas.

(6) Saturday, November 18th - Borderlands Books' 20th Anniversary Party!

(7) December, date TBA - Trip to Dickens Fair.

Magnum Opus version:

(1) Wednesday, October 11, 2017, 5:00-9:30pm - Free tickets to The Internet Archive's anniversary party at The Internet Archive, 300 Funston Ave. San Francisco.  From our friends at the Internet Archive comes this invitation which includes free admission for the first 100 sponsors to sign up using the special code VIPBORDERLANDS.  Direct link here: https://internetarchive20ctimemachine.eventbrite.com?discount=VIPBorderlands.

From their website, "We invite you to enter our 20th Century Time Machine to experience the audio, books, films, web sites, ephemera and software fast disappearing from our midst. We’ll be connecting the centuries -- transporting 20th century treasures to curious minds in the 21st.  Come explore the possibilities at our Annual Bash on Wednesday, October 11, 2017, from 5-9:30 pm.  We’ll kick off the evening with cocktails, food trucks and hands-on demos of our coolest collections.  Come scan a book, play in a virtual reality arcade, or spin a 78 rpm recording.  When you arrive, be sure to get your library card.  If you "check out" all the stations on your card, we'll reward you with a special Internet Archive gift.  Starting at 7 p.m., we'll unveil the latest media the Internet Archive has to offer, presented by the artists, writers, and scientists who lose themselves in our collections every day.  And to keep you dancing into the evening, DJ Phast Phreddie the Boogaloo Omnibus, will be spinning records from 8-9:30.  Come join our celebration!"

(2) Sunday, October 22nd at 2:00pm - Sponsor Picnic at Golden Gate Park
We are once again braving the outside world for a potluck cookout celebrating "Summer" in San Francisco.  We're taking our October Sponsor event to Golden Gate Park, on Sunday, October 22nd at 2pm.  We have high hopes that we won't be shivering and shrouded in fog.  We've reserved table #1 in Lindley Meadow.  Directions are at the link below, but the short version is that Lindley Meadow is on the south side of JFK Drive, across from the 30th Avenue and Fulton Street entrance in Golden Gate Park.  (At 30th Avenue and JFK, there is a sign for Lindley Meadow.) http://sfrecpark.org/destination/golden-gate-park/ggp-lindley-meadow-picnic-area/ .  Please note that several streets are closed in the park on Sundays and parking is often challenging.

Bring something to put on the grill or something to share as a side; bring your picnic blanket and a frisbee, and probably a jacket for possibly unpredictable summer weather.  Wine and beer are fine to bring but, please, no liquor and no glass, per the Park's request.  Friends and guests (including children) are super welcome so please do bring 'em along.  If you're planning on coming, please let us know at sponsors@borderlands-books.com.

(3) Tuesday, October 24, 2017 starting at 7:00pm - Cocktail night at Churchill.
Sponsor Cocktail night continues at Churchill (198 Church Street at Market) <http://www.churchillsf.com/>; some combination of us will be there from at least 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm.  No need to RSVP and any number of guests and friends are welcome.  The bar is INCREDIBLY convenient to public transit -- the MUNI Metro Underground (via F, K, L, and M lines at Church Street,) and J and N lines stop less than a block away.

(4) Saturday, November 4th at 3:00 pm - Sponsor's Scotch Tasting at the World Fantasy Convention in San Antonio, Texas.
As usual, we'll be hosting a Scotch tasting for our sponsors and their guests at the World Fantasy Convention this year. We don't have the room number yet but, if you'll drop me an email and let me know that you'd like to attend, I'll make sure to get you that information as soon as I have it. You can just reply to this note and tell me that you'll be coming. You're welcome to bring a guest or two if you like.

(5) Saturday, November 4th at 9:00 pm - World Fantasy Convention party for Borderlands 20th Anniversary in San Antonio, Texas.
In addition to our private party in the afternoon, we'll be having a public one Saturday evening at the convention to celebrate our 20th anniversary.  I think it'll be a lot of fun (our convention parties usually are) and I hope that, if you're going to be at the con, you'll make time to attend.

(6) Saturday, November 18th - Borderlands Books 20th Anniversary Party!
As I mentioned at the beginning of this note, it's thanks to all of you that we get to celebrate 20 years in business. We're still nailing down all the details for the party but we've decided on a couple of things.  There will be a regular-customers only pre-party and sale starting at 10 am.  You'll need a password to get in (which I'll be sending out in the November note and in the newsletter) and we'll have Mimosas, snacks, some special deals, a store-wide 10% off sale, and we'll unveil our commemorative 20th Anniversary hoodie.  At noon we'll open to the general public and we've got some fun stuff planned for that part of the day including many, many authors signing their work (the full list is to come and it's going to be a long, long one) and, probably, some live music.  Then at six we'll close up to get ready for the Sponsor Social, which will start at 7 pm as usual.  I'm still planning the details of that part but there'll be some killer food for sure and some special cocktails.  And, if that's not enough for you, at 11 pm when that party stops, the after-party will move across the street to the Phoenix Pub where we'll close the place.  As I said last month -- this is going to be epic.

(7) December, date TBA - Trip to Dickens Fair.
We're putting together a group trip to Dicken's Fair <https://dickensfair.com>.  Scott and I are still working out the details but the trip will be sometime in the first half of December and we'll have some sort of discounted tickets (that detail is still being worked out -- and thank you to all our sponsors who are affiliated with the Fair for all the possible hook-ups for those tickets).  Look for more details in the next sponsor note.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Sponser Letter, September 18th 2017

Dear Sponsors,

I've lots of entertaining news about what I've been up to recently but, before I get into that, I've a question for you.

Do you think that a location on Upper Haight Street (i.e. around Ashbury and the park) would work for the bookstore?

I'm looking at a property to buy on Haight Street and I think that it would work as a location, but I'd like to hear your thoughts.  As I see it, parking is about the same as our current location, as is local public transit service.  However, transit from outside SF is slightly worse (it's pretty far from BART and freeway access is not as good). Walking traffic is good (although not as good as Valencia St.)  But, the neighborhood "feels" more like our sort of place than Valencia (and the Mission in general) does nowadays.

Obviously, this would be dependent on the numbers working out, financing being possible, and the "bones" of the building being good, but all those things are looking promising so far.  Your thoughts are, as always, very much appreciated.

Buildings and the buying of them, has been the theme of my last month-and-a-half.  Since the last time I wrote, I've looked very seriously at three buildings that might be possible for the store, and I've made offers on two of them (both offers turned down, as you may guess).  I can't say much about the third building since that is still in play (and, for the same reason, I can't say anything about the building on Haight Street).  But I'm happy to tell you about the others.

The first one was a return to the building that I was looking at in the beginning of this year.  It's an odd one on Mission St. (2965 Mission to be precise).  We came back to it because the seller seemed open to a price that was more reasonable.  Last time, they were asking 2.5 million and I offered 1.6 (which was very low but was also where the math worked out).  They came back with an offer of 2.4 and so we said thanks but; no.  Last month my realtor got in touch with them (because the building still hadn't sold - it went on the market in October of last year) and asked if they would be open to talking about another offer.  After a bit of back and forth, they said they were open to something under 2 million.  After some thought, I decided we could offer 1.75 million.  We did and they (rather unprofessionally) declined.  But, that one is still on the table.  Neither I nor my realtor think that they're going to get much interest at their asking price and so, in a few months, we might come back to them.

The lack of success there is both good and bad.  The building is kind of weird in that it's two narrow but deep store fronts with a two-story building at the rear of the lot. The yard between the two buildings was covered over at some point in the past but it was a pretty poor job.  And there were two unpermitted apartments built into the rear building.  We would have to do a lot of work to make the whole place legal and workable for the store so taking it on would be a hassle.

But, the total square footage is 3500, which is almost twice the current bookstore.  The location is excellent with great public transit access, very good freeway access, good foot traffic and close to many other neat businesses.  And, both buildings were unusual.  The front structure is 1920s art-deco with much of the original plaster work inside and the rear building was an old livery stable (probably from the 1890s).  All in all, a headache but a really neat one with plenty of character.

The other building that I looked at was kind of weird right out of the gate.  Before I could get any information about it from the listing realtor, they insisted that I sign a non-disclosure agreement (which was a first for both me and my realtor).  I'm not going to break that agreement here but I can tell you all the public information on the property.  The building is at 3901 18th St. and so it's only five blocks westerly from our current location.  It is a single story building with two retail store fronts, one a cafe and the other a nail salon.  The size is good (around 2700 square feet) but the layout was awkward.  The price, however, was hard to beat -- 1.3 million.  So, we started the process of getting details about the building and ran into that silly NDA thing.  We dealt with that and then heard nothing for days and days.  Finally, we decided to jump-start the process by sending in an offer at 1.25 million.  That finally produced a reply.  Informally the listing realtor told my realtor that they had already received and turned down offers in the neighborhood of 15% over the listing price.  At that price, the limitations in the building made it much less attractive so we walked.

My realtor and I have been joking about there being a pattern to the buildings we offer on -- specifically that the building will, for one reason or another, not be "straight-forward" and then the seller and/or the agent will do some strange stuff.  Thus far we've had a seller who seems to not be very interested in selling the building (pro tip here: if a building has been on the market for almost a frickin' _year_, the price is probably too high and you should lower it), a seller who lists a building at a price far below the amount that they'll accept (which is a waste of everyone's time), realtors who are slow to respond to actual buyers (three of those so far, and I think we might be headed to number four), and it goes on and on.

Seriously though, that pattern isn't surprising to me.  What we're looking for is an odd sort of property and we're in an odd situation as buyers in that we're planning on being owner-occupiers, we're actively searching for older buildings with some problems (since those problems lower the price and I've got the skills / contacts to sort out most kinds of problems), and we're trying to do this on a shoe-string budget.  I'm very grateful that our realtor is willing to work with us, has a boatload of experience, and understands that this is going to be a long process.

That's about all my news for now.  I'll have more to tell you about the building process next month, as well as information about our 20th anniversary party (which will be epic) and other upcoming events.

All Best,
Alan

The scattered showers version:

(1) Tuesday, September 26th at 7:00 pm -- Sponsor Cocktails.  Who doesn't love drinking at Churchill?  We will definitely be out again this month at the same location and time to enjoy the company of fellow sponsors.  Meet us at Churchill, 198 Church Street at Market Street.

(2) Thursday, October 5th at 7:00 pm - Advance Preview of "BladeRunner 2049" at the Balboa Theatre, thanks to SF in SF.

(3) Monday, October 9th at 7:00 pm - Sponsor Game Night.  Join us to hang out and bring your favorite game!

(4) Sunday, October 22nd at 2:00pm -- Sponsor Picnic at Golden Gate Park. A (hopefully) sunny day in the park with grill and friends.

The deluge of biblical proportions version:

(1) Tuesday, September 26th at 7:00 pm -- Sponsor Cocktails.  Our next Monthly Sponsor Cocktail night will be at Churchill (198 Church Street at Market) <http://www.churchillsf.com/>; some combination of us will be there from at least 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm.  No need to RSVP and any number of guests and friends are welcome.  The bar is INCREDIBLY convenient to public transit -- the MUNI Metro Underground (via F, K, L, and M lines at Church Street,) and J and N lines stop less than a block away.

(2) Thursday, October 5th at 7:00 pm - Advance Preview of "BladeRunner 2049" at the Balboa Theatre, Balboa Theatre 3630 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA  94121.  SF in SF is hosting a sneak preview of BLADE RUNNER 2049!  In appreciation of our sponsors, Rina Weisman at SF in SF is giving you first crack at tickets for this show, available only via SF in SF.  This will be a sell-out, so you'll want to get your tickets early!  Program starts promptly at 7:00 pm, with special guest Paul Sammon, who wrote FUTURE NOIR: THE MAKING OF BLADE RUNNER, (the ultimate reference tool for fans of the movie).  Paul will give a half hour talk, and answer questions and sign books after the movie in the lobby.  Borderlands Books will be on hand with his book, as well as other PKD titles.​  Film begins at exactly 7:30 pm.  Note - Sponsors may purchase up to a maximum of six tickets each, so please bring your friends.  Tickets will be $8.50 each.  Payment via Venmo​​ or ​PayPal (please choose "send to friends or family option") to sfinsfevents@gmail.com.  Rina Weisman will be in the lobby as of 6:15PM to the left of the box office with your ticket(s).  If you are buying tix for more than one person, you will need to collect all tix at the same time​.  For more info, email sfinsfevents@gmail.com

(3) Monday, October 9th at 7:00 pm - Sponsor Game Night.  Join fellow sponsors & "game" staff for chess, Cards Against Humanity, Scrabble, Pictionary, or whatever other board games you'd like to bring to play!  Please bring games that have a usual play-cycle of less than 3 hours, so probably NOT Monopoly, Seven Ages, Arkham Horror, or The Longest Day (that's the Normandy Invasion strategy game that takes an average of 90 hours to play).  Are you a secret Balderdash champion?  Kick butt at Connect 4?  Here's your chance to shine!  Feel free to bring your favorite beverage to share.  Also, you're welcome to bring food if you wish -- the cafe will be shutting down at eight.  No need to RSVP, and please feel free to invite your friends along, as there really isn't any limit to the number of folks we can accommodate -- the more the merrier.

(4) Sunday, October 22nd at 2:00pm -- Sponsor Picnic at Golden Gate Park

BBQ Picnic in Golden Gate Park.  We are once again braving the outside world for a potluck cookout celebrating "Summer" in San Francisco. We're taking our October Sponsor event to Golden Gate Park, on Sunday, October 22nd at 2pm.  We have high hopes that we won't be shivering and shrouded in fog.  We've reserved table #1 in Lindley Meadow.  Directions are at the link below, but the short version is that Lindley Meadow is on the south side of JFK Drive, across from the 30th Avenue and Fulton Street entrance in Golden Gate Park.  (At 30th Avenue and JFK, there is a sign for Lindley Meadow.)  http://sfrecpark.org/destination/golden-gate-park/ggp-lindley-meadow-picnic-area/ . Please note that several streets are closed in the park on Sundays and parking is often challenging.

Bring something to put on the grill or something to share as a side; bring your picnic blanket and a frisbee, and probably a jacket for possibly unpredictable summer weather.  Wine and beer are fine to bring but, please, no liquor and no glass, per the Park's request.  Friends and guests (including children) are super welcome so please do bring 'em along.  If you're planning on coming, please let us know at sponsors@borderlands-books.com

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Sponsor Letter, August 7th, 2017

Hello Everyone,

If you're doing such a thing, I hope that your summer vacations are (or have been) lovely.  I'm not taking a summer vacation since I managed to get ten days in New Orleans this spring, but I'm with you in spirt.  At the store we've been busy helping all the people visiting for their vacations and it has been great fun.  One of the things I like the best about this business (and get to do the least) is make suggestions and help people find the book they're looking for.  Especially when they don't actually know what book they're looking for.  Summer time and the Holiday Season are the two times that I get to do the most of it, so it has been a good couple of weeks.

Speaking of summer travel, a lot of folks that we know are heading off to Helsinki for the World Science Fiction convention.  One of our sponsors, Gay Chung, is going to be there and she has offered to coordinate a get-together for any other sponsors who are going to be attending.  Exactly where, when and what it'll be is going to have to wait 'til Gay gets in town (which'll be tomorrow) and has a chance to check out the lay of the land.  But, if you'd like to connect with her and other sponsors, you should drop her a note at blbsponsors@gmail.com.  Once she has the details, she'll drop you a line.  I wish I was going to be there, but I'm sure you'll all send me some great pictures (yes, that is a hint).

And, now on to the list of upcoming events.

Warm Regards,
Alan

Note:  As usual, to RSVP for any event, just reply to this email and we'll take care of the rest.

Short:

(1) Monday, August 14th from 7:00 pm -- 10:00 pm -- Game Night.  Inspired by the rousing success of the last couple, we'll be doing a monthly game night at the Cafe on the second Monday of each month.  Guests are welcome and no RSVPs are necessary.

(2) Saturday, August 19th from 7:00 pm -- 11:00 pm -- Summer Sponsor Social.  Cookies, cookies, cookies!  Instead of our usual pot-luck, we'd like you to bring cookies. We want to taste your favorite family recipe, your go-to binge, or even your favorite local bakery's confections.  We'll have few ports and sherries on hand to try different pairings, but as always, feel free to bring any of your favorite libations.  And we'll have all the usual entertainments in the form of door prizes, board games at the back of the cafe, and Alan will be giving a limited number of tours of the (sorta creepy) basement of the shop.  Feel free to bring a guest and RSVPs are much appreciated but not required.

(3) Tuesday, August 22nd at 7:00 pm -- Sponsor Cocktails.  Who doesn't love drinking at Churchill?  We will definitely be out again this month at the same location and time to enjoy the company of fellow sponsors.  Meet us at Churchill, 198 Church Street at Market Street.

(4) Thursday, September 7th at 6:00 pm -- Sponsor Karaoke with Seanan McGuire at The Mint (1942 Market Street, San Francisco).  21 and over, no cover charge (but there is a 2-drink minimum), guests welcome.  Please RSVP so we know how many people to expect.

(5) Sunday, October 22nd, 2 pm to 6 pm -- Picnic in Golden Gate Park.  We'll be at table #1 in Lindley Meadow (see map here - http://sfpsociety.org/large_ggp_map.jpg). Any number of guests are welcome and RSVPs are appreciated.  We'll take care of the coals and some basic food stuff, but please do bring things to share (however, please, per park rules, no beverages in glass bottles).

Long:

(1) Monday, August 14th from 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm -- Game Night.  Join fellow sponsors & "game" staff for chess, Cards Against Humanity, Scrabble, Pictionary, or whatever other board games you'd like to bring to play!  Please bring games that have a usual play-cycle of less than 3 hours, so probably NOT Monopoly, Seven Ages, Arkham Horror, or The Longest Day (that's the Normandy Invasion strategy game that takes an average of 90 hours to play).  Are you a secret Balderdash champion?  Kick butt at Connect 4? Here's your chance to shine!  We'll have adult beverages (after eight pm), iced tea and lemonade on offer, but feel free to bring your favorite beverage to share.  Also, you're welcome to bring food if you wish -- the cafe will be shutting down at eight.  No need to RSVP, and please feel free to invite your friends along, as there really isn't any limit to the number of folks we can accommodate -- the more the merrier.

(2) Saturday, August 19th from 7:00 pm - 11:00 pm -- Summer Sponsor Social.  Cookies, cookies, cookies! Instead of our usual pot-luck, we'd like you to bring cookies. We want to taste your favorite family recipe, your go-to binge, or even your favorite local bakery's confections.  We'll have few ports and sherries on hand to try different pairings, but as always, feel free to bring any of your favorite libations.  And we'll have all the usual entertainments in the form of door prizes, board games at the back of the cafe, and Alan will be giving a limited number of tours of the (sorta creepy) basement of the shop.  Given the sweets-focused nature of this social, you might want to have dinner before arriving (although we will have some "real" food on hand for the folks who didn't have time for dinner - i.e. the staff at the very least).  Feel free to bring a guest and RSVPs are much appreciated but not required.

(3) Tuesday, August 22nd at 7:00 pm -- Sponsor Cocktails.  Our next Monthly Sponsor Cocktail night will be at Churchill (198 Church Street at Market) <http://www.churchillsf.com/>; some combination of us will be there from at least 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm.  No need to RSVP and any number of guests and friends are welcome.  The bar is INCREDIBLY convenient to public transit -- the MUNI Metro Underground (via F, K, L, and M lines at Church Street,) and J and N lines stop less than a block away.

(4) Thursday, September 7th at 6:00 pm -- Sponsor Karaoke with Seanan McGuire at The Mint (1942 Market Street, San Francisco). Nebula Award winning author, singer/songwriter, snake handler, Borderlands sponsor, and all-around amazing person Seanan McGuire has graciously offered to be a special guest at the very first Borderlands Sponsor Karaoke Night!  This will be an enormously entertaining event, and we hope you'll join us to show off your vocal prowess (or your irrepressible attitude, if you happen to lack vocal prowess -- that's great, too).  The Mint is located at 1942 Market Street, San Francisco, and we have reserved space for sponsors. Some pertinent info about The Mint: it is a bar, so this event will be for those 21 and over.  There is no cover charge, but there is a 2-drink minimum.  Guests are welcome, and please RSVP so we know how many people to expect.

(5) Sunday, October 22nd, 2 pm to 6 pm -- Picnic in Golden Gate Park.  We are celebrating "Summer" in San Francisco by taking our October Sponsor event to Golden Gate Park!  We're actually leaving the store and venturing into the outside world for a potluck cookout!  And, since it's October in San Francisco, we have high hopes that we won't be shivering and shrouded in fog.  We've reserved Table #1 at Lindley Meadow. Directions are at the link below, but the short version is that Lindley Meadow is on the South side of JFK Drive, across from the 30th Avenue and Fulton Street entrance in Golden Gate Park.  (At 30th Avenue and JFK, there is a sign for Lindley Meadow.) http://sfrecpark.org/destination/golden-gate-park/ggp-lindley-meadow-picnic-area/ .

Bring something to put on the grill or something to share as a side; bring your picnic blanket and a frisbee, and probably a jacket for possibly unpredictable summer weather.  Wine and beer are fine to bring but, please, no liquor and no glass, per the Park's request.  Friends and guests (including children) are super welcome so please do bring 'em along.  If you're planning on coming, please let us know at sponsors@borderlands-books.com

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Sponsor Letter, July 6th 2017

Hi Everyone and Happy Summer,

As is usual for San Francisco, it's been chilly and windy a fair bit but at least 4th of July weekend was nice and sunny.  I hope that you're all having a good summer so far.  I've been working on various assorted small projects, both work and personal.  And there is one that has pointed out to me just how San Francisco is changing.

A few weeks ago someone backed into my motorcycle and knocked it over the side-stand.  For you who don't ride, that means it hit the ground pretty hard.  Various stuff was bent and broken, but it was all stuff that's pretty easy to replace, except -- the stay that mounts the rider's footpeg was cracked.  And I couldn't find a new replacement.  So, I decided to have it welded.

I went to Al's Welding, where I've been going for more than two decades.  They couldn't take the job because they were moving to Richmond.  The reason?  Their rent was getting too high.  I got in touch with my mechanic for a referral.  The guy he sent me to was closing up shop.  Rent, again.  Next I looked online and found a guy who seemed pretty good.  Called him.  He moved to Petaluma about six months ago.  And, you guessed it -- his rent went up when his lease ran out.  I called another mechanic.  He not only didn't have a referral but he asked me to let him know if I found anyone because the two welders he usually worked with had both moved out of town.  I finally found a shop that was still operating and I should have the bike back on the road soon, but I'm wondering how long that shop will be able to stay in business.  I'm also wondering what other services that I've always taken for granted may have been priced out of San Francisco.

I haven't been spending all my time working on my own stuff.  There are a few things in progress around the shop that should gel in the next couple of months.  One on them is my project to set up an online forum or message board so that sponsors can communicate with each other more easily.  At this year's general meeting this was something that people were enthusiastic about and so it's high on my to-do list.  At the time, we had some discussion about the best way of going at it.  Several people suggested using Slack, others preferred a more traditional forum, and some others suggested that an email list-serve would be good.

After giving it some thought, I decided that an email list would be too intrusive for general chatting.  Though I like them very much for working on projects and for sending out things like these notes and our newsletter, it seemed to me that it would work one of two ways; either people would use it a lot, in which case there would be too much traffic (we have over 600 sponsors), or people wouldn't use it much at all, in which case why bother to set it up.  That left the choice between Slack and a forum.  I think that there are good points for either of them.  Slack is conducive to something that feels much more like a free-flowing conversation, but (in the free mode) it doesn't support archiving, which means that the conversation gets lost over time.  Forums, on the other hand, are more rigid and (smart) people tend to be more careful about what they post, since it does get archived.  And forums are better suited to being a long-term repository for information.  Finally, we would "own" our forum and the data, whereas Slack is a single company and (as they should) runs things to suit themselves.

My final conclusion was to try a forum and see how it works for six months or so.  Over the years I've been burned several times by becoming dependent on an outside company, only to have them change their business practices.  That makes me hesitant to create that sort of dependency unless I really have to.  I hope that the forum will be a desirable and successful part of what we do with the sponsor program.  If it becomes that, I don't want to risk it being ruined because of another company's decisions.

All that said, if the forum isn't active and working well in six months, I think I'll shut it down and give Slack a try.  Of course and as usual, any comments or thoughts about this from you are super welcome -- just reply to this email and it'll go right to me.

All Best,
Alan

Upcoming Sponsor Events

If you would like to RSVP for any sponsor event, just reply to this email and, if necessary, let us know if you're bringing a guest. That's all there is to it.  And, same goes if you want to get in touch with me -- just reply to this and it'll get to me.

The Pithy version:
(1) Every Saturday in July at 8:00 pm -- Bay Area Theatre Sports Improv has been kind enough to give sponsors a discount code good for 30% off unlimited tickets to the Star Trek themed improv show "Warp Speed", Saturdays in July at 8:00 pm.

(2) Monday, July 10th from 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm -- Game Night.  Inspired by the rousing success of the first one, we'll be doing a monthly game night at the Cafe on the second Monday of each month.  Guests are welcome and RSVPs are appreciated but not required.

(3) Tuesday, July 25th at 7:00 pm -- Sponsor Cocktails.  Who doesn't love drinking at Churchill?  We will definitely be out again this month at the same location and time to enjoy the company of fellow sponsors.  Meet us at Churchill, 198 Church Street at Market Street.

(4) Friday, August 4th at 8:00 pm -- Blind Wine Tasting.  Sponsors Joe Thomas and John Plevyak have again very graciously offered to host a blind wine tasting for sponsors!  The event will take place at the bookstore and the cost will be $10.  Attendance is limited, so please RSVP as soon as possible.

(5) Saturday, August 19th from 7:00 pm - 11:00 pm -- Summer Sponsor Social.  More details to come next month!

(6) Thursday, September 7th at 6:00 pm (note earlier time) -- Sponsor Karaoke with Seanan McGuire at The Mint (1942 Market Street, San Francisco).  21 and over, no cover charge (but there is a 2-drink minimum), guests welcome.  Please RSVP so we know how many people to expect.

The Protracted version:

(1) Every Saturday in July at 8:00 pm -- We have several sponsor friends involved with the marvelous Bay Area Theatre Sports Improv, and BATS has been kind enough to give Borderlands sponsors a discount code good for 30% off unlimited tickets to their new Star Trek-themed show, "Warp Speed"!  The show's happening every Saturday in July, 8:00 pm, at The Bayfront Theater, Building B, Third floor, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco.  You can purchase tickets here: http://www.improv.org/shows/tickets/?eid=19479&edid=69232 and the discount code to use is REDSHIRTS.  Go support their wonderful creative endeavors and have a great time at a discount!  Their website, with further info about BATS and their shows, is here: www.improv.org

(2) Monday, July 10th from 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm -- Game Night.  Join fellow sponsors & "game" staff for chess, Cards Against Humanity, Scrabble, Pictionary, or whatever other board games you'd like to bring to play!  Please bring games that have a usual play-cycle of less than 3 hours, so probably NOT Monopoly, Seven Ages, Arkham Horror, or The Longest Day (that's the Normandy Invasion strategy game that takes an average of 90 hours to play).  Are you a secret Balderdash champion?  Kick butt at Connect 4? Here's your chance to shine!  We'll have adult beverages (after eight pm), iced tea and lemonade on offer, but feel free to bring your favorite beverage to share. Also, you're welcome to bring food if you wish -- the cafe will be shutting down at eight.  RSVPs are appreciated but not required, and please feel free to invite your friends along, as there really isn't any limit to the number of folks we can accommodate -- the more the merrier.

(3) Tuesday, July 25th at 7:00 pm -- Sponsor Cocktails.  Our next Monthly Sponsor Cocktail night will be at Churchill (198 Church Street at Market) <http://www.churchillsf.com/>; some combination of us will be there from at least 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm.  No need to RSVP and any number of guests and friends are welcome.  The bar is INCREDIBLY convenient to public transit -- the MUNI Metro Underground (via F, K, L, and M lines at Church Street,) and J and N lines stop less than a block away.

(4) Friday, August 4th at 8:00 pm -- Blind Wine Tasting.  We're very grateful to sponsors Joe Thomas and John Plevyak, who have again graciously offered to host a blind wine tasting for sponsors!  Here's the way it will work: We'll be hosting the event in the bookstore.  You're welcome to show up early, if you like, or just come to the door at eight or so.  Joe and John will be bringing the wine, with covered labels, and we'll be pouring and chatting about what we think, guided by Joe & John, for a couple of hours. The cost will be $10, and the proceeds will go to the Borderlands' Building Fund.  We might even have a prize or two for the folks with the best (or luckiest) palates.  This will be a very low-key event and so, if you don't know much about wine, this is a perfect chance to get your "feet" wet.  Attendance is limited, so please RSVP as soon as possible.  Oh, and please do be over 21 years old.  It also might be a good idea if you've had dinner before you arrive.  The glasses are pretty small but there might be a lot of them.

(5) Saturday, August 19th from 7:00 pm - 11:00 pm -- Summer Sponsor Social.  More details to come next month!

(6) Thursday, September 7th at 6:00 pm (please note earlier start time) -- Sponsor Karaoke with Seanan McGuire at The Mint (1942 Market Street, San Francisco). Nebula Award winning author, singer/songwriter, snake handler, Borderlands sponsor, and all-around amazing person Seanan McGuire has graciously offered to be a special guest at the very first Borderlands Sponsor Karaoke Night! This will be an enormously entertaining event, and we hope you'll join us to show off your vocal prowess (or your irrepressible attitude, if you happen to lack vocal prowess -- that's great, too).  The Mint is located at 1942 Market Street, San Francisco, and we have reserved space for sponsors.  Some pertinent info about The Mint: it is a bar, so this event will be for those 21 and over.  There is no cover charge, but there is a 2-drink minimum.  Guests are welcome, and please RSVP so we know how many people to expect.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Sponsor Letter, June 12th 2017

Hello Everyone,

This is going to be a short intro for the sponsor note this month.  I've got all sorts of things to work on and so I'm going to make this quick.

After considering the feedback from the General Meeting at the end of March, I've decided that I'm going to focus on improving the store and cafe this year and leave the larger world for next year.  You can expect to see some small and large improvements around the place throughout this year.  Two of them are almost done now.

First, thanks to help from my friend Bruce, the WiFi in the cafe has improved substantially.  With some better hardware, speeds on the sponsor network are almost double what they were before.  And, it should be much more reliable from here on out (not that it was bad before but . . . there's always room for improvement).  Since we were doing all that work, I've also changed the password for the sponsors-only WiFi.  If you need the new password, drop me a note or ask at the counter in either the bookstore or the cafe.

Second, almost a full year after I intended to get it done, we've got a very nice set up in the cafe to show movies and other video content.  With the help of a stone cold pro on the subject, I got a very nice screen and video projector.  We tested it out this last weekend to show the movie based on Dan Well's excellent novel I Am Not A Serial Killer. Despite some little technical glitches, it worked out very well.  So, if you've thought about throwing a party at the cafe sometime, movies are now an option.  Of course, there are a number of ways that this projection capacity is going to make for neat events.

Over the next few months, I hope to be getting the back room at the store open as a used book section, sorting our some long standing problems with the audio clarity of author events, and getting some paint and repairs done.

As always, thank you for all the support and I'll look forward to seeing you around the shop.

All Best,
Alan

PS  Just as I was about to send out this note, I got some very sad news.  Dark Carnival bookstore in Berkeley will be closing after 41 years of operation.  This is a big loss to our field and I'm going to be very sorry to see it go.  Back in 2013 they were having some financial problems which I wrote about at the time <http://borderlands-books.blogspot.com/2013/12/dark-carnival-bookstore.html>. It seems that things just didn't get better for them, hence the current decision <http://www.berkeleyside.com/2017/06/12/41-years-berkeley-sci-fi-bookstore-dark-carnival-closing/>.

Stores like Dark Carnival and Borderlands are becoming increasingly rare.  When I opened my shop in 1997, there were four other science fiction specialty stores in the Bay Area alone.  Now, we're the only one left.  In fact, to my knowledge, there are only two stores like ours west of the Rockies, and only five or six left in the whole country.

Thank you all for saving us.  That means even more to me and our field as the remaining stores close.


The mouse version:

If you would like to RSVP for any sponsor event, just reply to this email and, if necessary, let us know if you're bringing a guest. That's all there is to it.  And, same goes if you want to get in touch with me -- just reply to this and it'll get to me.

Short:
(1) On Thursday, June 15th at 6:45 pm, we're exploring the haunted side of San Francisco history.  We'll be taking a Ghost Walk tour of the Pacific Heights neighborhood. We're currently full, but if you would still like to join, please contact us ASAP and we'll place you on a waiting list.

(2) Tuesday, June 27th at 7:00 pm -- Sponsor Cocktails.  Who doesn't love drinking at Churchill?  We will definitely be out again this month at the same location and time to enjoy the company of fellow sponsors.  Meet us at Churchill, 198 Church Street at Market Street.

(3) Sunday, July 2nd at 10:00 am, join us for a guided tour of the San Francisco Center for the Book (375 Rhode Island St, San Francisco, CA 94103).  The cost for the tour is $10.  Please RSVP if you're interested.  You may bring one guest.

(4) Monday, July 10th from 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm -- Game Night.  Inspired by the rousing success of the first one, we'll be doing a monthly game night at the Cafe on the second Monday of each month.  Guests are welcome and no RSVPs are necessary.

(5) Friday, August 4th at 8:00 pm -- Blind Wine Tasting.  Sponsors Joe Thomas and John Plevyak have again very graciously offered to host a blind wine tasting for sponsors!  The event will take place at the bookstore and the cost will be $10.  Attendance is limited, so please RSVP as soon as possible.

(6) Saturday, August 19th from 7:00 pm - 11:00 pm -- Summer Sponsor Social.  More details to come next month!

(7) Thursday, September 7th at 7:00 pm -- Sponsor Karaoke with Seanan McGuire at The Mint (1942 Market Street, San Francisco). 21 and over, no cover charge (but there is a 2-drink minimum), guests welcome.  Please RSVP so we know how many people to expect.

(8) Win tickets to BATS Improv!  We have 2 sets of two tickets to give away for any Bay Area Theatresports Improv show. Saturdays in July at 8:00 pm, this dynamic improv company presents "Warp Speed", Star Trek themed improv theatre!  We'll select winners from local folks who reply to this email by Friday, June 23rd and include the words "Beam me up" in their notes.

The mammoth version:

(1) Ghost Tour -- On Thursday, June 15th at 6:45 pm, we're exploring the haunted side of San Francisco history.  We're currently full, but if you would still like to join, please contact us ASAP and we'll place you on a waiting list.
From their website: "The original San Francisco Ghost Hunt Walking Tour, SF's first ghost tour, is a historical walking tour of the Pacific Heights neighborhood, one of the few neighborhoods to survive The Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906.  You'll walk a mile on tree-lined streets in a safe residential area with fine Victorian architecture. You'll learn about real historic names of San Francisco -- how they lived, how they died, and the reports of their hauntings ever since.  We don't make it up.  We just report it.  You'll enjoy 90 minutes to 2 hours of guaranteed unearthly fun!"  The San Francisco Ghost Hunt Walking Tour meets on the corner of Octavia and Bush Streets, in front of 1801 Bush Street.  NOTE: Please meet us by 6:45 pm for the 7:00 pm tour -- it starts promptly.  The lovely folks at SF Ghost Hunt have offered us a Borderlands discount, so tickets will run only $15 per person.  If interested in joining us, please reply to this email and we'll get you on a waiting list.

(2) Tuesday, June 27th at 7:00 pm -- Sponsor Cocktails.  Our next Monthly Sponsor Cocktail night will be at Churchill (198 Church Street at Market) <http://www.churchillsf.com/>; some combination of us will be there from at least 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm.  No need to RSVP and any number of guests and friends are welcome.  The bar is INCREDIBLY convenient to public transit -- the MUNI Metro Underground (via F, K, L, and M lines at Church Street,) and J and N lines stop less than a block away.

(3) Sunday, July 2nd at 10:00 am, join us for a guided tour of the San Francisco Center for the Book (375 Rhode Island St, San Francisco, CA 94103).  The San Francisco Center for the Book was co-founded in 1996 by Mary Austin and Kathleen Burch, "who recognized a growing need in San Francisco, the Bay Area and on the West Coast for a facility specifically designed and equipped to support the appreciation, teaching and creation of book arts."  Attendees can expect a walk-through of the space, both the Bindery and Print Studio, with details about the equipment, what it's used for, and a little history of bookbinding and letterpress printing. There will be demos of some of the equipment so we can see how things work, and the tour will wrap up in the Print Studio with a letterpress demo.  The Center also has a bookbinding workshop scheduled for July 2nd,  so we will get to see some students at work. The cost for the tour will be $10, and the guided portion will take about an hour.  Attendees can stay longer to explore the space if they wish.  For more information about the Center, their website is here: https://www.sfcb.org/home .  We will meet outside the Center at 9:45 am before the tour, and guests are welcome; however, please do RSVP for this event so we know how many people to expect.

(4) Monday, July 10th from 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm -- Game Night.  Join fellow sponsors & "game" staff for chess, Cards Against Humanity, Scrabble, Pictionary, or whatever other board games you'd like to bring to play!  Please bring games that have a usual play-cycle of less than 3 hours, so probably NOT Monopoly, Seven Ages, Arkham Horror, or The Longest Day (that's the Normandy Invasion strategy game that takes an average of 90 hours to play).  Are you a secret Balderdash champion?  Kick butt at Connect 4? Here's your chance to shine!  We'll have adult beverages (after eight pm), iced tea and lemonade on offer, but feel free to bring your favorite beverage to share.  Also, you're welcome to bring food if you wish -- the cafe will be shutting down at eight.  No need to RSVP, and please feel free to invite your friends along, as there really isn't any limit to the number of folks we can accommodate -- the more the merrier.

(5) Friday, August 4th at 8:00 pm -- Blind Wine Tasting.  We're very grateful to sponsors Joe Thomas and John Plevyak, who have again graciously offered to host a blind wine tasting for sponsors!  Here's the way it will work: We'll be hosting the event in the bookstore.  You're welcome to show up early, if you like, or just come to the door at eight or so.  Joe and John will be bringing the wine, with covered labels, and we'll be pouring and chatting about what we think, guided by Joe & John, for a couple of hours.  The cost will be $10, and the proceeds will go to the Borderlands' Building Fund.  We might even have a prize or two for the folks with the best (or luckiest) palates.  This will be a very low-key event and so, if you don't know much about wine, this is a perfect chance to get your "feet" wet.  Attendance is limited, so please RSVP as soon as possible.  Oh, and please do be over 21 years old.  It also might be a good idea if you've had dinner before you arrive.  The glasses are pretty small but there might be a lot of them.

(6) Saturday, August 19th from 7:00 pm - 11:00 pm -- Summer Sponsor Social.  More details to come next month!

(7) Thursday, September 7th at 7:00 pm -- Sponsor Karaoke with Seanan McGuire at The Mint (1942 Market Street, San Francisco). Nebula Award winning author, singer/songwriter, snake handler, Borderlands sponsor, and all-around amazing person Seanan McGuire has graciously offered to be a special guest at the very first Borderlands Sponsor Karaoke Night!  This will be an enormously entertaining event, and we hope you'll join us to show off your vocal prowess (or your irrepressible attitude, if you happen to lack vocal prowess -- that's great, too).  The Mint is located at 1942 Market Street, San Francisco, and we have reserved space for sponsors.  Some pertinent info about The Mint: it is a bar, so this event will be for those 21 and over.  There is no cover charge, but there is a 2-drink minimum.  Guests are welcome, and please RSVP so we know how many people to expect.

(8) Win tickets to BATS Improv!  Thanks to the kindness of brand-new sponsor Regina Saisi, we have 2 sets of two tickets to give away for any Bay Area Theatre Sports Improv show at The Bayfront Theater, Building B, Third floor, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco. Saturdays in July at 8:00 pm, this dynamic improvisational theatre company presents "Warp Speed", a Star Trek themed improv show, so perhaps you'll want to attend one of those shows!  We'll select winners on Saturday, June 24th from local folks who reply to this email and include the words "Beam me up" in their reply, so email us by 8 pm PST on Friday, June 23rd to enter the contest. Winners will need to pick up their passes at the store by July 8th.  For more information about BATS Improv, check out their website: http://www.improv.org/

Useful links for sponsors:
Sponsors' Twitter feed - @bl_sponsors
Google Event Calendar - https://calendar.google.com/calendar/embed?src=ud8v8s1cfutjemfeusiv72ubvo%40group.calendar.google.com&ctz=America/Los_Angeles

Monday, May 8, 2017

Sponsor Letter, May 8th 2017

Hi Everyone,

Whew, getting closer to on-time with these notes.  And we've also managed to get our events planned months . . . do your hear me, months! . . . in advance, so check out all the cool stuff we've got coming up.

But, before you dive into that, I've two questions and a bit of business.  Business first -- the write-up for the General Meeting on the 31st of March is up at the Sponsors' Blog <http://borderlands-sponsors.blogspot.com/2017/05/report-on-sponsors-general-meeting-of.html>.  I warn you though, it's a long, dense bit of writing (I think I need to start talking less at these meetings).  If you didn't make the meeting and you have any questions or comments, please do drop me a line and we'll chat.

And now, the questions.

First, during the meeting there was a suggestion that we should start a Sponsors' forum / message board sort of thing.  There are two ways that we can go about that.  It can be a typical forum sort of setup (check out SFF World for an example - http://www.sffworld.com/forum/) or we could use something called Slack <https://slack.com>.  I've discussed the two options with several knowledgable folks and there are pros and cons to each option.  If you're familiar with both of the possibilities and you've got an opinion, I'd appreciate it if you'd drop me a line.

Second, Jude, Scott and I were talking about future events (did I mention that we've got them planned months . . . Months! . . . MONTHS! in advance?)  Um.  Where was I? Oh, right, future events.  Anyway, we thought it would be fun to do a group trip to the Great Dickens Christmas Fair <http://www.dickensfair.com> in December.  Tickets are usually pretty expensive ($30 for adults) and so we planned on getting in touch about a group ticket rate.  Then Jude pointed out that we might have a sponsor who was connected (in a slightly Mafia-sort-of-way) with the event.  So, anyone out there with a useful hook-up for group tickets to Dickens Fair?  If not, no worries, I'm sure we can make a deal though the usual channels.  And, honestly, I don't mind at all helping to support them -- it's a really cool event.

Now, on to the event schedule which, as you may have heard, extends MONTHS! into the future.

All Best and Warmest Regards,
Alan

Inch worm write-up:
(1) Game nights.  Inspired by the rousing success of the first one, we'll be doing a monthly game night at the Cafe on the second Monday of each month.  The first monthly Game Night will be Monday, May 8th from 6 pm - 10 pm.  Guests are welcome and no RSVPs are necessary.

(2) Our next Sponsor Social will be Saturday, May 13th from 7pm - 11pm.  We'll have fencing (with swords, not wooden posts) demonstrations, a fabulous retail guest, free advance reading copies and much more! You may bring one guest, and RSVP's are appreciated.

(3) Our first Monthly Sponsor Cocktail night at Churchill was a huge success. We will definitely be out again this month at the same location and time to enjoy the company of fellow sponsors. Our May Sponsor Cocktail night will be Tuesday, May 23rd at Churchill (198 Church Street at Market) starting at 7:00 pm.  Guests are welcome and no RSVPs are necessary.

(4) A first for Borderlands Sponsors; we’re going to the theatre. Our very own bookseller Scott is performing in an uproarious comedy called Sordid Lives. The play starts at 8pm on Thursday, June 8th. We have a block of discounted reserved seats, so please come by the store to purchase your ticket at the discounted rate of $25.00.

(5) We’re exploring the haunted side of San Francisco history. On Thursday, June 15th we’re taking a Ghost Walk tour of the Pacific Heights neighborhood.  Please RSVP if you're interested (you're welcome to bring a guest).  The tour will cost $15 per person.

(6) Join us for a guided tour of the San Francisco Center for the Book (375 Rhode Island St, San Francisco, CA 94103) on Sunday, July 2nd at 10:00 am.  The cost for the tour is $10.  Please RSVP if you're interested.  You may bring one guest.

(7) The third Sponsor Social of 2017 will be on Saturday, August 19th, from 7 pm to 11 pm.  More details to come.

(8) Sponsor Karaoke with Seanan McGuire at The Mint (1942 Market Street, San Francisco) on Thursday, September 7th at 7:00 pm! 21 and over, no cover charge (but there is a 2-drink minimum), guests welcome.  Please RSVP so we know how many people to expect.

Report on the Sponsors' General Meeting of 2017

The 2017 Annual Borderlands Books Sponsors’ Meeting
Friday, March 31st, 7pm
30-35 Attendees

On Friday, March 31st at 7pm the third annual Sponsors’ General Meeting took place at Borderlands Café to discuss the progress of the sponsorship program, give updates on projects, and talk about the general state of the business.

Alan Beatts, the owner of Borderlands Books and Borderlands Café, started by thanking the attending sponsors for their continued support, stating that the sponsors are the single most important reason that Borderlands still exists.  He reiterated the benefits for sponsors that are listed on the website, but also urged sponsors to remember that he and the rest of the staff are, within reason, at their service, and encouraged them to reach out with any sort of request.

From there, the meeting went back and forth between information from Alan and questions / responses from the audience.

BUSINESS UPDATES
March 31st is the deadline to have 300 sponsors.  As of March 31st, 2017 there are 632, which in an increase of 21 over the number at deadline in 2016.

Business at the bookstore in the first quarter of 2017 has been slow compared to 2016.  However, in 2016 we had two very large author events in the first quarter which were not repeated this year, so lower income at this point in the year isn't a surprise.  Alan said that he wasn't very concerned about the reduced sales but that he would be keeping an eye on it over the next three months.

Jeremy Lassen is taking an extended break from the bookstore to focus on a new job for the next couple months, but Alan expects and looks forward to having him back soon.  To pick up some of the slack, Maddy Hubbert, the senior barrista at the café who’s been a patron since she was quite young and an employee since the age of 15, is cross-trained as a bookseller and so will be working more shifts at the store.

In the cafe, Z'ev has moved to a salaried position as Manager and is doing an outstanding job.  Thanks to the degree that he has taken over the day-to-day operations of the cafe, Alan has much more time to work on long-range projects for the company.  Sales have been quite stable on the cafe side.  The only real shakeup on the horizon is that a number of staff will be graduating from high school this year and several of them will be heading out of town for college.  So, you can expect to see some new faces working there over the next few months.

Last year, due to a family illness, Alan found much of his time (about 20%) taken up dealing with matters associated with that.  The result was that many projects at Borderlands were put on hold or delayed.  But, heading into 2017, things in his personal life are much more stable and he looks forward to renewing efforts on multiple fronts.

FUTURE PLANS - Part 1, Long Term
To Alan's great relief, the total number of sponsors has increased compared to last year.  Given that and barring major economic changes, it seems that the sponsorship program can be a long-term success and so that removes the nearest-term threat to the continued existence of the store.  And so, just as last year, the next near term threat is the expiration of the current lease.

The bookstore’s lease expires in 2021, the cafe lease in 2025.  At that time the rents will go up to market rate, which (in the current economic climate) would be impossible to sustain.  Although it would be possible to raise the cost of sponsorships to the $300-$400 range to cover the shortfall produced by much higher rent, nobody seems to think that is a good or sustainable idea.   Alan believes that the best solution continues to be buying a building with a balance of payments (i.e. income minus maintenance, taxes, and debt service) that is close to our current financial situation.  On a fundamental level, finding that building is just a matter of math.  Alan recently was working on a deal for a building located on Mission Street between 25th and 26th.  He made an offer that would have satisfied the math, but it was below asking price and the seller declined.

Alan is continuing to actively pursue purchasing a building and that will be an ongoing (but unpredictable) process.  If he is successful before 2021, then the store can relocate.  It is certainly possible that we won't be able to find a building that meets our requirements and is affordable, but we hope the patience and flexibility will reward us eventually.

If the building purchase doesn't work out by 2021, the most likely course will be to combine the bookstore and cafe's operations within 870 Valencia, where the cafe is currently located.  To do so would mean substantially decreasing the seating and menu in the cafe to allow space for the bookstore's inventory and, possibly, reducing the bookstore's inventory by a modest amount.  Within those considerations however, the bookstore would be quite viable in the cafe space.

Taken together, we have more than 8 years to find a solution to the location of the store in an environment of much higher rents.  If, by 2024 or so, we don't have a solution then it will be time to consider either moving out of San Francisco or shutting down.

QUESTIONS
What sort of buildings are being considered?
Alan gave examples of three broad types with one caveat – though he might be willing to consider it for a very attractive price, a nondescript mid-century structure is not something that he thinks would suit Borderlands.  Regardless of the specific building, the store requires an absolute minimum of 1500 square feet of retail space.  It would be a tight squeeze to fit in that area, but it could be managed (the current store is 2000 square feet with an additional 2000 square feet of basement storage).

The “Cadillac” version – a former church, an old firehouse, some wonderful old building with character. Possible drawbacks are both the potential cost as well as deferred maintenance and upkeep.  For example, unreinforced masonry buildings are a dangerous pain in the butt.
The “Basic” version – repurposing an old industrial building (i.e. a repair garage, etc).  Benefits are lots of space and low prices but drawbacks are possible hazmat abatement (not as bad as it sounds) and that there are current restrictions on changing the use of structures of that sort (i.e. PDR conversion restrictions).
The “Likely” version – the kind of building you frequently see in the Mission; commercial ground floor with two to four apartments above.  The residential upstairs is attractive both by providing revenue, to support the bookstore and pay for building expenses, and because of the possibility of setting up some sort of “Author In Residence” program with below-market housing for local authors.

If a building were large enough, Alan mentioned offering reasonable or even below market rates to “kindred businesses” (i.e. the Bookbinders’ Museum, a letterpress company, and so on . . . even a general interest bookstore).  If there were enough space Alan thinks that would be a great idea, but it all goes back to cost, expenses, and funding.  Those ideas aside, Alan is hesitant to partner with another business to buy a building due to concerns of tying Borderlands' success and stability to the operations of another business.

Are there specific neighborhoods being targeted or excluded?
Though there are neighborhoods that are more and less desirable, but it all comes down to price. If a gorgeous building in Hunters Point becomes available for $200,000 then it would be well worth looking at but, generally, the areas that are "in the sweet spot" are; the Mission, the Castro, the Western Addition, Upper and Lower Haight, Potrero Hill, and Dog Patch.  But, any area in SF in on the table, just the value relative to price would have to be better for the less desirable areas.

If the bookstore moves, what about the café?
Everyone on the staff loves the cafe, and the relationships it has produced, but the priority is the bookstore because of its uniqueness.  Although Alan would be reluctant to close the café, there are literally dozens of awesome cafes in the Mission District alone. On the other hand, Borderlands is the only bookstore of its kind left West of the Mississippi.  So, if it becomes necessary to close the cafe to keep the bookstore open, he'll do so with regret but without hesitation.

Are you employing a tactical or strategic approach to the building search?
To find possible properties to buy, Alan is working with two wonderful real estate brokers with more then 50 years of experience between them.  They send him 1-3 listings a month, and sponsors have also sent in tips.  Right now, Alan is letting them do the leg work while still keeping his eye open for possibilities.

FUTURE PLANS - Part 2, A Non-Profit
Last year there were many, many people interested in the idea of setting up a nonprofit.  The short answer is that a nonprofit is definitely part of the long-term plan but the shape and structure of it is still in flux.  Alan has some leads on very good lawyers to speak to, but the main problem is that a nonprofit cannot exist solely to support a for-profit business.  A way around this is to structure things so that the bookstore is only a small part of the non-profit's operations (much the way that religious organizations run gift shops) but the main point can’t be retail.  The solution would be to do many things (the “fellow traveler” idea) related to bookselling and our genres (i.e. a publishing house, writing classes, etc.) of which bookselling is only a small part.  The catch is, who would run it?  Nobody currently on staff has both the time or experience to do the job.  A sponsor in D.C. suggested that there are professionals who make a career out of doing exactly that – coming in and just administering nonprofits regardless of the mission. That is an interesting possibility that requires more research and input from attorneys.

Another option would be setting up a non-profit to focus on events that qualify as "educational" in nature.  That could include all of our author events, for which the non-profit could pay rental fees to Borderlands.  And, there are other ways that a non-profit could make modest contributions to Borderlands' operations and bottom line.  But, doing that means understanding exactly how the relationship between Borderlands and the non-profit could be structured without breaking any of the rules.  Again, more research and talking with attorneys.

Alan will be keeping everyone informed as the process moves along.  Regardless of the results of further research, if all goes well a non-profit is without a doubt in the future since Alan's longest term plan is still to transfer the entire business to a non-profit, once he can no longer run the place (either due to decrepitude or due to the eventual and inescapable consequence of age).

QUESTIONS / COMMENTS
Why not just do like L. Ron Hubbard and start a religion?
Alan related a story about visiting a bookshop in Vancouver last year.  The shop is in an old bank building and it's just extraordinary. One of the booksellers there characterized the business thus, “This used to be a bank, but now it’s a temple and . . . I am a warrior monk of bookselling!”  A bit nutty but still an admirable sentiment.  So, a religion centered around books isn’t out of the question, but Alan has some hesitations because it seems a little disrespectful of "real" religions.  He is, however, open to discussing it with folks.

One sponsor suggested that Jude would be a great choice for high priestess.  Jude firmly demurred.

MINIMUM WAGE EFFECTS ON BOOKSTORES
There then was a long discussion about the effect of minimum wages on bookstores nationwide.  Much of the discussion has been covered elsewhere in sponsor notes and in our blog.  Rather than restating the whole discussion, the new information is condensed below.

1)  An idea that had been floated was that publishers could stop putting "cover" prices on books.  That would allow bookstores in high minimum-wage areas to adjust their prices upwards with less perception that they were overcharging customers.  Alan talked with several knowledgable people at the World Fantasy Convention last year about this.  In addition to the problem that a "cover" price is integral to most contracts between publishers and authors, there is the added problem that contracts between publishers and retailers like Walmart and CostCo also include cover prices as a critical element.  The general opinion of the people that he spoke to was that, although the idea of eliminating cover price is an interesting one, it is impractical on a fundamental level.

2)  At the same event, Alan spoke with an aide to a conservative member of Congress who is quite involved in the question of minimum wage.  This aide's feeling was that there was essentially no chance whatsoever of an increased federal minimum wage unless, at minimum, the Presidency and at least one house of Congress were controlled by the Democrats.  And, most likely, both houses would have to be Democrat controlled.

3)  A sponsor observed that another great local indie business, Comix Experience, which has been suffering the same wage pressures as Borderlands, seems to focus heavily on things like t-shirts and other "sidelines".  They wondered if that was something that could work for Borderlands.  Alan responded that Borderlands experience with selling non-book items has not been very positive.  There are some that work (like blank books), but for every success there have been five failures and so it's not something he focuses on much but he's open to suggestions for things that would work well.

4)  Another sponsor asked why not put a higher sticker price over the printed price on books.  Alan’s initial reaction was that doing that is a little creepy and deceptive.  And, on a more practical level, it won’t fool anyone since the price appears on multiple locations on books.  Plus, Amazon is a ubiquitous source for pricing information.

5)  The audience wondered if Borderlands could charge more for signed books.  Although charging extra for signed books is common when dealing with older books, especially if the author is deceased, Alan explained that doing so for recent books is not usual practice.  The assumed agreement between authors (and their publishers) and bookstores is that authors come to sign books to assist in the marketing of those books.  The costs are borne by the publisher on the theory that it is to the benefit of all parties. When a store charges a premium for those books, the store is taking advantage of the author and publisher (albeit in a small way).

It was then suggested that it could be on a case-by-case basis with the consent of the authors.  Alan said that he'd be happy to talk with some authors who are personal friends to see what they thought of that idea.  Of course, the assumption would be that un-signed copies would be in stock at cover price if there was a premium charge for the signed copies.

6)  Finally someone asked how well Borderlands mail-order / ecommerce system worked.  With a grin, Alan said, "By the standards of 2007, it’s awesome . . . by any modern standards it leaves a lot to be desired."  Although there is a clear set of improvements planned, doing so would mean bolting on more stuff to a web presence that is already outdated.  The alternative, a complete redesign and migration of Borderlands' website, is a much more complicated process that he's been working on but hasn't had as much time to give as he would wish.  Hopefully that will be something addressed this year.

GUIDANCE FROM THE ATTENDEES
As is usual at this point, a wide-ranging discussion took place between Alan and the attendees.  This meeting is a valuable opportunity for Alan to get feedback, suggestions and ideas about the current status of the company, as well as guidance moving forward.  The tone of the discussion was conversational and what follows is an extract of the questions and discussion.

Direction for 2017
The first question that Alan posed was where he should focus his attention for the next year.  The two possibilities were;  A focus on improving the operations of the store and cafe, both by making systematic improvements (like the website redesign) and general maintenance / updating (e.g. touching up paint, repairing furniture, and so forth).  Or, focusing on some of the larger issues facing bookselling, specifically price inflexibility, limited support for bookstores from publishers and local government, and an ebook market in which independent booksellers cannot effectively participate.  The second option would be harder and, though benefiting Borderlands directly, be more of a broad-based improvement for booksellers.

The audience feedback was;

1)  Of the two options, what will make Alan happy?
"Basically?  Meh.  It doesn't make much difference to me.  If either option is awful I just won’t do it." answered Alan.  He went on to add that working within the confines of Borderlands is more comfortable, mostly because he knows exactly what he's doing much of the time, whereas meeting with The Suits in NYC is not his forte.  To him, the main question is, where is the benefit?  The “larger world” ideas are long term and he has no idea if or when there would be a payoff.  If Alan focuses solely on internal concerns and increasing revenue, the short term benefit would be tremendous, but for the long term the payoff for solving things like the ebook problem is huge.

2)  Any ebook plans would need to be compatible with Kindles for it to work.  Alan agreed that trying to punish Amazon by excluding them is quixotic at best.  Format wars are foolish -- everything should work with everything and penalizing customers for the electronics they use is stupid.

3)  What are your thoughts on DRM?
Alan replied, "As someone smarter than me said, DRM is dumber than tits on a snake.  The first publisher in our business to make money on ebooks was Baen and they still are totally DRM free.  Baen's attitude is that it’s hard enough to get readers to hear about their authors so, if someone steals the book, that’s still a win.  Tom Doherty, the founder of Tor Books, has been an advocate at Macmillan to eliminate DRM and succeeded in 2012."

There was no clear and strong feeling on the part of those attending whether Alan should focus his attention on the business or on some of the larger issues.  The general conclusion was that he should just pick whatever seemed like either the best idea or the most pleasant prospect.

Politics: At What Point Should Borderlands Get Involved?
Alan mentioned in a recent piece in the store newsletter <http://borderlands-books.blogspot.com/2017/02/sponsorship-success-and-other-news.html#more>, he’s done his best to keep Borderlands out of politics, except for situations that directly impact our industry.  As per that note, he’s planning to stick by that, unless something crossed the line from politics-as-usual and into the realm of fundamental civil rights.  Given the sponsors’ commitment to Borderlands, he brought the subject up at the meeting to check in and get their opinions.

He began by explaining that his personal standard for civil rights has been what he calls the "Kindergarten Rule" because it's a standard of fairness that every child understands in kindergarten: everyone should be treated equally, regardless of who they are, and opportunity should be shared.  His starting question was, "Is that a useful and reasonable standard to apply to Borderlands' political involvement?"

General comments were as follows;

1)  The sponsors trust Alan and his judgement on how to operate the business, and that trust has been demonstrably rewarded over the past two years so, at a certain point, he should just do what he thinks is best.  Alan replied, "Thank you and I will but -- I still very much value your thoughts and opinions."

2)  The "Kindergarten Rule" seemed like a good basis to operate from, though it probably won't work in more complicated situations.

3)  What would even be the use of getting Borderlands politically involved?  Alan responded that, due to his background, he can articulate general legal principles relatively well and talk about the significance of law enforcement actions.  He also enjoys a pretty good reputation, both in San Francisco as a whole and within our field.  Those two qualities combined with a good-sized audience (700 sponsors, 3000 newsletter subscribers, and 11,000 followers on Twitter) means that he could have some influence on public opinion.  In addition, it would also be possible for Borderlands to both host and produce fund-raising events for, as an example, the ACLU.

4)  One sponsor observed that one of Borderlands' goals has always been to be a welcoming place for everyone.  Based on their own experience at their job with a manager who was politically conservative, the Bay Area's left-leaning qualities can make things uncomfortable for people who are more conservative.  That would be an argument against political positions for the business.  Alan agreed whole-heartedly.

5)  Finally, another sponsor pointed out that it's easy to take no position on the issues when the business never has.  But, once the business does start taking positions, the absence of a position on any issue sends a message and can even be the same as actively taking a position.  In essence, once we start, it can be very hard to stop.

Miscellaneous Comments and Questions
The following comments and questions came up at various points during the meeting and have been collected here in no particular order.

1)  What about getting a liquor license for beer and wine in the cafe?
Alan replied that it might be worth it, but it would also means nobody under 18 could work at the cafe anymore.  That would both deprive Borderlands of a valuable pool of staff as well as stopping something that gives all of us great pleasure; giving younger people their first job and showing them what a good, fair work environment is like.

2)  Could there be more social gatherings, outside of the quarterly parties?
In mid-2015 there was a regular Tuesday night drinking session that eventually petered out due to lack of attendance, and more frequent Sponsor Socials could lead to lower turnout.  Some suggestions from the audience include a monthly silent reading party or a monthly meetup at a local bar.  Alan was in favor of the idea but pointed out that people need to actually show up.  Audience feedback for this ideas was very positive.
(Note: in response to this we've started a monthly meetup for drinks.  The first one was last month and was quite a success, so we'll be continuing it.)

3)  What about a book club for sponsors as was suggested last year?
That was started last year and sort of worked but there were some communication issues around the book club that could be resolved to improve the attendance.  This could also dovetail nicely with the silent reading parties suggested in #2 above.  Definitely something to consider.

4)  What about a regular board game night?
Alan and the audience were supportive of that idea as well.
(Note: we've started doing that this month.  The first meeting will be on May 8th and we'll see how it goes.)

5)  Would it be possible to set up an automatic renewal system for sponsorships?
Alan's initial reaction was that automatically renewing sponsorships would reduce the engagement between Borderlands and the sponsors.  His argument is that, if sponsoring Borderlands is something that just happens, rather than it being something that people actually decide to do, it makes them less involved in the process.  Since the sponsors' involvement has been so critical to the success of the program, he's hesitant to make renewal automatic.

In response, a sponsor observed that all human motivation is essentially selfish.  People are time-poor, not disengaged; they want to do something altruistic but don’t have time.  Auto-renewal for those people would be a kindness, especially for folks who live out of town.  Alan agreed that is a good point and concluded that he would like to go one more year without automatic renewal so that we can really see how the program is working without changing a significant variable.  But, after next year, he's thinking that it might be something to try out.  Auto-renewnal would definitely be "opt-in", not "opt-out".

6)  What about reminding people who don’t renew?
Alan felt uncomfortable with that idea.  He admits that it's stubborn of him but he doesn't want to be in the position of specifically asking people for their support.  It's one thing to let people know that it's time to renew but it seems different to pester them about doing so.  As it stands, the third sponsor note each year makes it clear that, if someone has not renewed, that will be the last time they are reminded.

7)  A sponsor suggested that we could ask people if they would like to be reminded to renew (and, for that matter, be reminded about upcoming events).  Alan thought that seemed like an excellent idea.
(Note:  That "pester me" option was started in the last sponsor note and, at this time, over 40 sponsors have signed up to be reminded.)

8)  Returning to the aspect of doing more social events, a sponsor asked if it would be possible to set up a forum, message board or perhaps a Slack channel where sponsors could engage with each other.  After pointing out that there would need a cadre of dedicated and responsive moderators, Alan thought that was a good idea and said he would work on it.

IN CLOSING
Alan talked a bit about Borderlands' upcoming 20th anniversary in November and asked the attendees how they thought the celebration should be structured.  It was determined that making the sponsor social on November 18th part of the anniversary celebration would be great while also throwing another party or event for the public would be a very nice thing to accomplish.  After that, Alan thanked the sponsors for their time and support and the meeting ended at 9:30 pm, though many attendees stayed and talked afterwards.