Guild Attorneys Support Modern Times Bookstore

Richard Terry Koch
Executive Board Member

This article will, hopefully, be the first of many to discuss non-traditional legal work that many of us engage in as part of our everyday legal work. We need to share how we use our organizing and legal skills.

My avocation has always been about sharing, selling and collecting books. In 1969, I helped start Left Bank Books in St. Louis, MO. Now there are two locations in the city of St. Louis (not the suburbs). In 2010, I used my knowledge of non-profit tax law to establish the Left Bank Books Foundation.

Last fall, I became aware of Modern Times Bookstore Collective’s need to raise funds and more basically/importantly expand both its customer base and its relevance.. Eileen Hansen, fellow Guild member, and I have committed to helping them with this socially and politically important endeavor.

Knowledge is power. Obtaining knowledge and unbiased information is often expensive and challenging. My passion for books is not for inanimate objects but for the free-flowing, unfettered exchange of ideas which books and bookstores engender. Language, whether writ or spoke is how we communicate ideas, information and concepts. For the past several years Modern Times Bookstore has been operating at a loss, and is now facing a severe financial crisis that threatens its existence.

Modern Times is preparing to step into a new era of progressive politics and radical activism. The bookstore not only has a celebrated history but a unique presence today: it reaches a wide variety of communities through its weekly Spanish/English literacy classes (and excellent selection of Spanish-language books) to Queer Open Mic, to its provision of space for cutting edge authors to read and grassroots groups to meet. There are exciting plans to create a more inviting space for communities to come together with fascinating events, new books and new paint, expanded lighting, comfortable reading chairs, and discussions on ideas new and old. Local groups working with the store include El Tecolote, Brava, Mission Local, Precita Eyes, Gay Shame, Mission Cultural Center and Calle 24.

In order to do that, Modern Times needs help to pay down the debt incurred at the previous Valencia Street location and realize a new vision on 24th Street in the cultural heart of San Francisco’s Mission District. Like many businesses in the Mission, and like many independent bookstores, survival is a constant challenge. Modern Times is moving forward with a comprehensive business model and carefully constructed plans so that the bookstore will not only survive but thrive by being increasingly relevant. Independent bookstores are very cooperative, and non-competitive. Please buy/order books from local stores, NOT from Amazon. 

Modern Times Bookstore Collective has raised over $25,000 but needs to retire an additional $75,000 of debt. Through increasing outreach and sales the store is at a break-even point in sales, when debt service is excluded. Please shop at the store; order books for a reading/study group; or your friends and family. You can make a tax-deductible contribution by writing a check to fiscal sponsor, PeaceKey, Inc. (with Modern Times in the memo line of the check), and send to Modern Times, 2919 24th Street, SF, CA 94110. Be sure to include your email, phone number and mailing address so we can keep you posted on our progress. You can also go to the website to make a safe, non tax-deductible credit card gift – or become a valued monthly donor – through PayPal.

Drop by Modern Times Mon-Sat 11am-9pm; Sun 11am-8pm. Say hello, pick up some books, leave some used books and offer your volunteer skills. If you have questions, please call Eileen at 415.531.6949 or Terry at 415-397-1060. Do it now! Thanks for keeping Modern Times alive for progressives!

P.S. If you want to learn more, check out this linked article from the SF Bay Guardian.