Adobe Books

Liz Claiborne Halts Construction of New Jack Spade Store in the Mission

It was just two weeks ago that Liz Claiborne Holdings began gutting Adobe Books' former home at 3166 16th Street, creating a sense of inevitability around Jack Spade's moving into the neighborhood.  The odds seemed stacked against the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association, who found themselves petitioning to sway them against opening the store.  However, VCMA's luck has seemed to shift, and now Liz Claiborne has suspended the build out of their latest Jack Spade location.

VCMA's Jefferson McCarley sent us this update on their campaign (highlights in bold):

For months the VCMA has been trying to reach out to Jack Spade. Our invitations to talk have been met with radio silence.

The only exception is that a PR rep wrote to me saying, “The in-house team at Jack Spade is aware that you are interested in speaking with them, and will be in touch soon.”  That was May 15th.

This is interesting considering what they wrote in their application for non-formula retail status: “When Jack Spade opens a new store it is important to us that we become a part of the neighborhood's fabric… Jack Spade stores operate with a focus on … community.”

So because they refused to come to the table, we began the process of blocking their arrival through a more formal process.

5th and Pacific (formerly known as Liz Claiborne), did $1.5 billion in sales last year. And while in their application they distance the sub-brand from the parent company, in the 5&P annual report, the company doesn't even break Jack Spade down into its own category—they are lumped in with the Kate Spade “segment.”

There are three “Spade” brands: Kate, Jack and Kate Spade Saturday, with a total of 91 stores in the US.

Total number of 5&P stores? 479.

The VCMA has filed an appeal, which stopped construction yesterday. We are working on a Jurisdiction Request to the Board of Appeals requesting that they be classified as formula retail.

There will be a public hearing.

None of us want to be doing this. We are usually working 50 hours a week on our own businesses.  Now we have this battle to fight on top of trying to run a small business in San Francisco. We're meeting regularly, after our shops close, because we care about our neighborhood.

In a letter dated September 6, 2012, the Planning Department sent a letter to neighborhood organizations which included instructions on how to appeal the Department's decision [on their ruling on Spade's formula retail status]. If we had received letter then, we would have appealed last year.

Why didn't we get this letter? The VCMA is relatively new (compared to the Mission Merchants Association, which was founded in 1909). None of us knew about this list of neighborhood organizations. It's the neighborhood group's responsibility to submit their details to the city to be added to the list. Of course, the neighborhood group has to first find out about the list.

Who did get the letter? The Mission Merchants Association. It was addressed “attn: Phil Lessor,” who is a paid consultant of Jack Spade.

We don't have the resources of 5&P. In fact, we're paying for everything out of our own pockets. We don't have the lawyers and professionals that they have, but we have community support. That's what keeps us going.

For the people that ask, “What's so wrong with Jack Spade? How different will that store be than other stores already in the Mission?” Maybe not a lot. It might have the same look and feel as some other (independent) high-end clothing stores that are here in the corridor.

What we're fighting is not Jack Spade, specifically. It's a fight against formula retail. When you shop at Jack Spade, most of your money you spend goes to 5&P in New York. When you shop at a locally owned small business, it stays here in the community.

If we thought that Jack Spade would be the one and only formula retail store to open up in the corridor, I'm pretty sure we wouldn't be working so hard on this. But we think it's the first—not the last. Once JS opens up in this wildlife preserve of small independent local businesses, it sends a powerful message to the rest of Corporate America.

We think residents and visitors alike will prefer West of Pecos, Ritual, Deema's and Glam-a-Rama to Chili's, Starbucks, Banana Republic, and Super Cuts.

Representatives for Jack Spade still refuses to comment on their plans to Uptown Almanac, however, they have pulled all their employment ads for the location, suggesting they preparing to scrap their planned expansion.

Valencia Businesses Launch Petition Campaign Opposing Jack Spade

With Adobe Books packing up their 25-year-old 16th Street location, evicted financially by their landlord on behalf of Liz Claiborne's Jack Spade label, the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association is petitioning to keep the luxury men's store from moving into the location.

The organization is hoping to repeat the success of their outreach campaign against American Apparel, which successfully swayed the clothing manufacturer from opening on Valencia in 2009.

“American Apparel made the decision to abort their efforts to open up a retail store in the corridor [in response to community backlash],” Jefferson McCarley of Mission Bicycle told us. “We are hoping that when Jack Spade sees how strongly the community feels about this, they will also decide not to pursue this location here.”

Jack Spade's lease of 3166 16th Street reportedly begins on June 15th, but their opening date remains shrouded in secrecy.  As their move-in looms, the VCMA feels they have exhausted all other means to sway Jack Spade.  The company has refused to engage the local business community, declining through a media spokesman to meet with the organization and discuss alternative locations in the city.  Neighborhood Supervisors Wiener and Campos remain ambivalent towards the the store, and the Planning Department will not host a public meeting on the company, as it ruled the company does not meet the city's “formula retail” definition on a technicality that only 10 of their 13 locations are in the United States.

As Eileen Hassi of Ritual Roasters tells us:

Jack Spade is clearly formula retail by the SF Planning Department's definition, but unfortunately the way the law is written, it's not until AFTER the 11th [U.S.] location that a business is required to have a public hearing.  Without a public hearing, we have to find other means of getting the public's opinion and sharing it with the business and the Planning Department.  What better way than a petition?  It will show that it's a diverse cross-section of the population of the Mission, and of San Francisco, that is opposed to Jack Spade opening on the Valencia Corridor.

She adds:

I'm a fan of the [Planning Department's] hearing process.  I think it works.  I'm happy to say it worked with American Apparel, it worked with the Starbucks that just tried to go in to the Castro, on Market at Sanchez.  It's frustrating that Liz Claiborne/Jack Spade has figured out how to game the process.  It's no accident that this is their 11th US location.  I think the very fact that this multinational corporation figured out the loophole and exploited it should be a very clear message to the Planning Department that the ambiguity of the law should be corrected.

Many have received that message.  Following GANT's controversial opening in Hayes Valley, Supervisor London Breed proposed legislation that would count all worldwide locations when considering a chain's formula retail status.  However, that legislation only applies to Hayes Valley and would not affect Jack Spade.

Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose district includes the planned Jack Spade location, instead favors relaxing formula retail restrictions for the Mission District. Andres Power, legislative aide to the supervisor, has told VCMA members that Wiener would like to increase the allowable number of U.S. locations a store may have to 20.

Dema Grim from DEMA tells us that over 30 stores in the neighborhood are hanging posters promoting the petition in their windows.  At least 20 with host the petition on their sales counter.

The only public supporter the Liz Claiborne subsidiary has found is Phil Lesser of the Mission Merchants Association; however, Spade allegedly had to pay Lesser a hefty sum as a “permit expediter” to get his “blessing.”  The Mission Merchants Association is yet to take a position on the company, but their president, Casanova owner Don Alan, has reportedly told Jack Spade that “they would be unwelcome on the Valencia corridor” and “strongly suggested they look for alternate locations” in the city.

With so few legal options available to the VCMA, they hope that public opinion will convince Jack Spade to explore more commercial locations.

“I don't oppose Jack Spade,” Haley Lynn, manager of Five & Diamond, conceded. “I just oppose them moving into the Valencia Corridor.”

“The best part of San Francisco is all the different feelings in each neighborhood. Each neighborhood really identifies with a certain culture. That atmosphere is created by the merchants and residents in those areas. The Mission District is no exception: it is filled with so much rich, local flavor—people come here looking for a different vibe than they have experienced anywhere else. But if we have multi-national corporations like Jack Spade moving in to the Valencia Corridor, our neighborhood will lose its independent feeling.”

Mark Holcomb, a spokesman for Jack Spade, has not responded to our inquiries.

Adobe Books Unveils New 24th Street Location With Adobe Marketplace Pop-Up

With the Jack Spade-backed eviction of Adobe Books from their 16th Street store a done deal, the beloved used bookshop has signed the lease for a new spot on 24th and Shotwell.  While the new shop will not official open until July, they're exploring some new business models and giving us a sneak peak at their new digs this Saturday (2-7pm) with Adobe Marketplace:

Join us as we invite local artists and merchants to sell out of the brand new Adobe books. Browse the wares of your talented Bay Area comrades, and enjoy music, food & drinks. This Saturday afternoon event is sponsored by Rainbow Grocery and Speakeasy Ales and Lagers.

A few of our fabulous participants:
- Cool Try, clothing & accessories by artist Ryan De La Hoz
- Shirts by Amos
- The Bold Italic, products by SF locals- along with postcards, posters and other Bold Italic exclusives
- Most Ancient, limited edition books, experimental comics, and art in print form
- SCRAP, scrounger’s center for reusable art parts
- Jewelry by Sea Pony Couture
- Super Classy Publishing, small editions of handmade books
- Jewelry by While Odin Sleeps
- Yam Books, Oakland–based independent small-press publisher of art books, comics, graphic novels, and zines
- Tiny Splendor, publishing collective representing over 30 artists from around the Bay Area and Los Angeles, zines, artist books, prints & more
- Vintage by Annemarie
- Maren Salomon & Megan Hendry, drawings, prints, collages & embroideries
- Eunice, art boxes
- Adobe Books!

All bar proceeds and 10% of sales from the marketplace will be donated to help open the new Adobe Books.

Statement from Adobe Books on Their Eviction

Adobe just shared this in our comments:

Dear Friends of Adobe,

Despite completing a successful fund raising campaign, our attempts to negotiate a new lease with the landlord have not reached a conclusion that allows us to stay in our 16th Street location. Unfortunately, we have received notice that by June 15th, we must leave our home of almost 25 years. The new tenant may or may not be Jack Spade - we can’t officially confirm.

San Francisco, the Mission, and 16th Street are in a constant state of flux and growth. We must deal with this financial and cultural reality as it is. Adobe though is much more than the storefront: it is a community, an experience, a gallery, a living room, a conversation, and a new friend (plus a fantastic place to buy great used books!).

When our core Adobe group began meeting almost a year ago, our ultimate goal became our long-term survival. In order to survive we must move on. Currently, we are working with a commercial broker to identify new spaces that might be a good fit for a new store. We have developed a set of criteria; once we find a place we will move forward. We are optimistic, as well as patient. The funds we raised are in the bank. They will be used to keep the life and culture of Adobe alive.

We will keep you posted as to our progress. If you see a space under 2000 square feet.. give us a shout!

Keep the faith. We love you.
Adobe Books

In Defense of Liz Claiborne's Pursuit of Adobe Books

Look guys. It's known Adobe Books has been threatened by a number of factors lately, including dramatically increased rent and landlords flat out ignoring large scale citizen activist protests to keep a local institution in place. I know that you think that preserving centrally-located community-based bookstores is somehow important to the continuation of our culture, and that getting rid of bookstores for mass-market retail outlets will erode our neighborhood into a blackness of bumbling, shop-a-holic moronicism.

But I'm just saying, think about it… we could have a Liz Claiborne store here!

When you really think about it, it makes sense. Bookstores are just a novelty of looming obsolescence; a facet of our parent's foregone generation, like newspapers and jazz and Social Security. Our dads went to bookstores, but we stimulate our intellects with ebrochures and tumblogs, and the new Jack Spade shoppe will sell excellent designer handbags to hold all of our Kindles, Kindle Fire, and HD Nook tablets just fine.

I know it seemed that our chance of happiness was ruined, years ago, when some unruly citizens took to the streets and drove American Apparel out of the space next to ATA. And then when that Levi's pop-up store disappeared, I know a lot of us just thought about packing it up and moving to Russian Hill, towards some real cultural landmarks like the Google Bus Stop and the house where they shot The Real World: San Francisco. But this is our opportunity to usher in a new generation to the Mission. We can make a world where our kids can go to school with artisan leather handbags instead of, you know, “books.”

I'm just saying all we have to do is roll over and one of our obsolete, oversized spacial occupants, Adobe Books, can be replaced by a renowned, internationally-certified gender-neutral leather handbag haberdashery.

This is America. This is what we were promised. Gone will be the days when San Francisco residents have to go all the way to the airport and buy the cheapest ticket to anywhere just to get through security to shop for Liz Claiborne at Terminal 3, near the Tommy Bahama and the World News candy stand. If this deal goes through, none of us will have to tell another TSA agent that “I just decided not to go to Dallas/Ft. Worth today.”

So don't get outraged, don't don't write letters, don't protest, and don't petition. With the replacement of culture with large-chain retail, we can finally start what we've all been after this entire time: turning the Mission into a small, downtown Walnut Creek. We can finally replace Arinell Pizza with a California Pizza Kitchen and turn Dear Mom into an even better Dear Mom.

It's going to be great. I'll see you guys there.

Liz Claiborne Pushing for Adobe Books' Eviction

When Adobe Books' landlord raised the 25-year-old bookshop's rent from $4,500 to $6,000 last spring, the shop and the community it serves rallied for its future. Authors Stephen Elliott, Rebecca Solnit, Michelle Tea, and musicians The Dodos held in-store fundraisers that saw overflow crowds spill out into the street.  Over 600 people donated to an Indiegogo fundraising campaign to save Adobe and create a co-op to manage it.  Just last week the fundraiser successfully raised $60,000, giving the shop at least a year of rent money.

“It's obvious the community supports us,” Liz, one of Adobe's employees, told me this morning as she sorted a box of yellowing Playboys.

But their landlord was less inspired by the effort.  They responded by further raising the shop's rent to $8,000 and demanding improvements be made to the space.

“We cleaned up everything, reorganized the space, even painted behind bookcases… spots that haven't needed to be painted since forever.”

Unfortunately that hasn't been enough for the landlord—they have decided they want Adobe out.  And they're being emboldened by a fashion retailer valued at $2.3 billion and traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

According to public records, Fifth & Pacific Companies Inc.—better known by their former name, Liz Claiborne Inc.—has been eying Adobe's storefront at 3166 16th Street since at least July 30th of last year, when Melissa Xides, the self-described “co-leader” of Fifth & Pacific's upscale Jack Spade label, wrote to the San Francisco Planning Department asking if the company fell into the city's “formula retail” category.

“I am writing on behalf of the fashion retailer Jack Spade to request a Letter of Determination regarding a proposed retail store that Jack Spade is pursuing on 16th Street in the Valencia Street NC district,” the letter began. “Jack Spade designs men’s bags, accessories and apparel that blend functionality and style. Jack Spade is based in New York City and only has seven stores in the United States. We are not a Formula Retail store and are asking for confirmation of this from the Planning Department.”

“Jack Spade stores operate more like a traditional haberdashery with a focus on customer service and relationships with our clients and community… direct community outreach is very important to the Jack Spade brand team.”

While the Planning Department later agreed Jack Spade wasn't formula retail, citing their relative independence from their monied parent company, the business has been remarkably secretive about their plans.  They have held no public meetings about their move into the Mission District, the job ads for the soon-to-be-opened store do not disclose the neighborhood it will be located in, and the staff of Adobe has been kept in the dark from their landlord (Liz told us she knew “nothing” about Jack Spade's intentions).  Another source told us that representatives from Jack Spade allegedly went into neighboring retailer Idol Vintage “without warning” and “literally measured the store with a tape measurer” with future expansions in mind.

With Jack Spade's deep pockets giving Adobe's landlord unmatchable financial leverage over the small used bookstore, getting pushed out of their home since 1988 is almost certain.  “It just doesn't make sense to run a bookshop [when paying] $8,000 a month in rent,” Liz conceded, acknowledging the shop is bracing for a forced relocation.

“There's just no way.”

Representatives for Jack Spade could not be reached for comment.

Cooperative Fails to Save Adobe Books, Farewell Reading Scheduled For Next Week [UPDATED]

Update Mon. 1/14 @ 8:30: A couple of commenters assert that Adobe's closure is remains uncertain, despite the scheduled farewell reading at the shop itself. We've reached out to multiple contacts at Adobe, but are yet to hear anything official back.  However, someone associated with the co-op told us that the “lovely chaos” of Adobe created the confusion and that they are still in negoiations with the landlord, as well as raising money.

Similarly, the farewell reading's Facebook event has been updated to also reflect the uncertainty surrounding the news of Adobe's closure.

Original Article: 2012 was a turbulent year for many mainstay Mission businesses, but none quite so rocky and rumored as the fate of Adobe Books.  Confronted with doubling rents, it was first made known in the early spring they were closing—only they never seemed to shut down.  Then, in October, the shop announced it was becoming the Adobe Books & Gallery Cooperative, with the hope that a new business model and strategy could save the store by the new year.  However, success with the new model seems it was never found, as the cooperative's Facebook group was shut down on Wednesday and a trio of Mission literary heavyweights announced yesterday they'll be holding a “farewell reading” for the shop Wednesday next week:

As you may know, the Adobe Bookshop on 16th Street is going out of business. Adobe has been in its present location for 23 years, and it has been an important place for writers and artists in the Mission: a venue for readings and art openings, a meeting place for readers and writers, a focal point for the life of the neighborhood — and a bookstore where you could find some great obscure surprising book at any time of day or night.

It would be wrong to let Adobe go without saying goodbye. On Wednesday, January 16th at 7pm, three great San Francisco writers will read in the bookshop, to celebrate Adobe's long existence and the generosity and kindness of its proprietor, Andrew McKinley. The readers are Stephen Elliott, Rebecca Solnit, and Michelle Tea. It should be an amazing and memorable evening. Please come.

Tragically—but perhaps fittingly—the aging Clarion Alley mural of Lone Star Swan, the homeless poet often found sleeping inside Adobe or feeding pigeons out front, was also completely destroyed this week.

Of course, every cloud has a silver lining, and the cause for optimism here is that Alleycat Books, now over a year in business on 24th, seems to be going strong and also has a fine events space in the back of the shop.  With that, the organizers of Adobe's farewell reading note, “admission is free, but space is limited, so you might want to come a few minutes early.”


What Does the Closure of Adobe Books Mean for the "Serious Pigeon Situation" at 16th and Albion?

With Adobe Book set to close down at the end of August, everyone has been busy mourning the loss of yet another community book store and event space—a major bummer, indeed.  But I can't help but be even more concerned about Lone Star Swan (real name John Ratliff) and the flock of pigeons that follow him.

The old Clarion Alley mural dedicated to John. (Photo/Pete Veilleux)

Chuck Moody sums up Lone Star Swan's tale:

He told me he used to be a reporter for the Associated Press. He has been a resident of the 16th and Valencia area for at least 20 years, I first met him in 1987. He writes very bizarre, rambling typewritten and xeroxed 'newsletters' which he hands out to everyone, donate what you will. He feeds the pigeons, mice and all creatures. He is a gentle soul but is not always there in the present moment. He ties magnets into the headband that he always wears. The kind folks at Adobe Bookshop on 16th and Valencia allow him to come in and use the typewriter, and have known him since they opened their store in about 1987.

With Adobe Books closing, presumably the new tenants won't be quite so friendly towards a homeless, schizophrenic poet hanging outside the shop and feeding hundreds of pigeons—never mind offering up a place to come in and write.  So what will become of John and his flock?  We're not sure, but we imagine one of the Mission's staple characters won't be calling that block home for much longer.

[Photo by The Bold Italic]