A Quick Chat with Andrew at Adobe Bookshop
Fri, 04/20/2012 - 12:53
Walking into Adobe Bookshop last Monday morning, I was immediately struck by two distinct sounds: the soft lull of an old Billie Holiday record and the short snaps of a typewriter. This shop doesn’t feel like a store, it feels like home. Bookshelves canvas every vertical surface, showcasing their amazing amount of books. Overflowing stacks line the aisles. Big, comfy couches serve avid readers and sleepy wanderers alike. The names of famous authors painted on the walls lead book foragers to an art gallery in the back. And most appealingly, this place smells like books. That might seem too obvious to mention, but in a world dominated by the alienation of online shopping, I cannot express how refreshing it is to walk into an actual bookstore and breathe in the scent of old knowledge, to run my hands across yellowing pages, and browse Adobe’s stacks without the constraints of a search engine.
I had the pleasure of talking with Andrew, Adobe’s Manager. Between whistled renditions of the songs coming through the sound system, he was kind enough to share his thoughts on the independent bookstore
Fourteen Hills: First of all, how are you today?
Andrew: I’m feeling upbeat. You’ve caught me at a good time.
14H: There’s a unique aspect to your store in that you have a built-in art gallery. How did that come to be?
A: A woman artist in the neighborhood asked me if she could build a gallery. This was over ten years ago, maybe fifteen? And I said yes. She got some money from an insurance incident and wanted to spend it on building a gallery where she could show her own art along with her favorite artists, so she spent a couple thousand dollars. It was small, tiny, and intimate. It became a popular place to show art. And it’s grown from there. Our reputation for showing art is really big. We do it all the time now. People want to show their work in our store. Some have been successful, and they have continued to support us. There’s sort of a cachet now about the place because it’s been around for twenty years and a lot has happened. And something could happen at any moment.
14H: I’m wondering if you could speak on the nature of being an independent bookstore. Challenges? Advantages?
A: The freedom is that we’re not subservient to anybody. The limitations are that we depend on secondhand books. And even though the markup is good, the sales are always very modest. Selling $3 and $6 books, it’s not easy to make a living.
14H: Would you say that there is an overall theme to the books you carry here?
A: We’re strong on the arts. Poetry, philosophy, and art are what we like to sell most. However, we sell everything.
14H: Where do you get most of your books?
A: We go hunting for them in garage sales, auctions, thrift stores, library sales, etc. Oh, and when people die, we buy their books from their estates.
14H: Well there’s a positive from a negative.
A: Ha, yes there’s an upside. And some people donate of course.
14H: Speaking of books, what are you reading right now? Anything you’d recommend?
A: Oh god, I just read Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, which is a memoir of his life in Paris as a young man in the ‘20s. It’s a great book. We sell copies of it all the time. I just happened to get a copy on Saturday, and read it the last couple of mornings. I like Flaubert’s Madame Bovary—that’s a great book. I like Willa Cather’s My Antonia; I’m very fond of that book. I read older books. Generally, people have to be dead before I read them.
14H: Yeah that’s the rule of being an author, right? Famous when dead.
14H: How does Adobe Bookshop fit in the Mission?
A: Well, we live off the community. We used to cater to a lot of artists, young people, poets, painters, and we still try to do that. The community is changing, and we try to meet the needs effectively. We provide inexpensive used books to as many people as possible.
14H: Do you guys host any public events?
A: Oh, yes. Please come by the store for more information or use this blog.
14H: Why are author readings important?
A: People need a venue for what they’re creating. A live venue. A human venue. And we’re more of an art space all the time, though we’re sympathetic to, like I said, actors, musicians, poets—hell, derelicts, bums, and bohemians. It’s just an easy place to start something.
14H: Thank you so much for your time.
Adobe Bookshop is a proud carrier of Fourteen Hills. So head on over, meet Andrew, and buy a great book. Check out their blog for upcoming events.
Hours: Mon-Sun 11 am - 12 am
3166 16th St.
(at Albion St.)
San Francisco, CA 94103
Interview by Chris Ames, Intern
Photo credit to Elayna Yussen