Borders prepares to turn page on South Beach

A chain bookstore anchoring a condominium complex in the center of a revived South Beach is going out of business in October amid neighborhood fears that the space will remain empty too long in the down economy.

The last day of business for the Borders on King Street between Third and Fourth streets is Oct. 16, according to Borders spokeswoman Mary Davis. Three other Borders stores remain in San Francisco — in Union Square, the Westfield San Francisco Centre and Stonestown.

“We make decisions on a case-by-case basis to close stores that do not meet our financial objectives, and unfortunately this store was not meeting those objectives,” Davis said in an e-mail.

Neighbors expressed disappointment after seeing the telltale clearance signs go up in the windows of the 23,000-square-foot store last week. Borders opened in May 2004 and quickly became a neighborhood meeting point for bookworms who could even bring their dogs inside.

Borders is the highest-profile business to leave the area, although there are other empty storefronts below The Beacon condominiums. Some worried that closures near AT&T Park could spiral into a trend, although the nearby Safeway appears to be doing brisk business.

Tim Hauser and his fiancee, Jamie Kelley, live in the area and walked their bulldog out of Borders on Saturday. Kelley hoped that a Petco would move in, but Hauser wondered if anything could fill the giant space.

“I’m a little worried they’re not going to find something,” Hauser said. “What if it’s just us and the stadium?”

Internet booksellers such as Amazon have taken their toll on bookshops large and small. A fight for control of the nation’s other large book chain, Barnes and Noble, is being played out this month. Smaller bookshops across The City have closed or struggled to stay afloat.

Modern Times Bookstore on bustling Valencia Street recently put out the word to its members that it needed some money to get through the summer. Though the store should be able to survive, the threat of closure still looms, according to Kermit Playfoot, who was working there Saturday.

“Big chains have come in places like that and have pushed other bookstores out, and now find themselves in the same situation,” Playfoot said of Borders. “Although there is a certain irony to that, I feel for the people who now don’t have any bookstores in their
neighborhood.”

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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