Thursday, November 26, 2020
Arts + Culture Modern Times bookstore says it will close

Modern Times bookstore says it will close

After 45 years as a progressive resource, the Mission legend will shutter -- unless 11th-hour solution can be found


In a message posted to its Facebook page around 9pm on Monday night, Modern Times Collective Bookstore — for 45 years a vibrant center of local community and cultural events with a distinctly progressive, socio-political edge — announced that it will close after October 22.

The reason for the impending closure, the message said, was economic — and, in the Modern Times spirit, in consideration of its workers’ needs: “Though we have persevered out of love and duty and a willingness to continue to fulfill our mission, we are the first to admit the store is not operating at the level we would like and we can no longer serve our customer’s needs as well as those of our workers.” 

The message was posted after closing time, and no one answered the phone for further comment when we called. The “Preserving LGBT Historic Sites in California” Facebook group, however, pointed out that “From the beginning, the shop has featured a prominent LGBTQ books section, has presented queer cultural programs, has hosted queer activist meetings and has welcomed LGBTQ collective members.”

El Tecolote newspaper quotes the Mission’s Calle 24 organization leader Erick Arguello as saying, “Its contributions in progressive radical literacy and creating a space for discussion and expression will live in the hearts and minds of everyone.”

A photo of the Modern Times facade, posted by the "Preserving LGBT Historic Sites in California" Facebook group.
A photo of the Modern Times facade, posted by the “Preserving LGBT Historic Sites in California” Facebook group.

In 2011, the bookstore moved to 24th Street after 40 years on Valencia, after its landlord at the time refused to renew its lease. Wednesday night’s Facebook message did leave a little window of hope for Moder Times lovers: “We are not ruling out possibilities or eleventh hour reprieves,” it saysWe’ll update here as more information becomes available. The full message is below:

Dear comrades, loyal customers, friends, and neighbors.

This was the letter we had hoped to never send but the day has finally come: Modern Times Bookstore Collective will be closing its doors after 45 years of serving the beloved community. As those closest to us know, we have tried every possible avenue of support to sustain the store since its displacement from Valencia Street in 2011. Though we have persevered out of love and duty and a willingness to continue to fulfill our mission, we are the first to admit the store is not operating at the level we would like and we can no longer serve our customer’s needs as well as those of our workers.

Our doors will close on November 15. Books will begin to be marked down starting October 15 and all merchandise will continue to be reduced until it’s gone. We would love nothing more than for you to stop by, bid us a fond farewell, and to take home a book or some remembrance of Modern Times with you.

Some of you will no doubt be concerned about our community-serving programs from Spanish Book Club and Queer Open Mic to our books to prisons mailings: Have no doubt, we are working on forging solutions and finding appropriate venues and stewards to carry on our work.

All October and first part of November in-store events will remain on the schedule. Ruth Mahaney’s retirement party will serve as our closing party and will remain on the calendar for October 22. 

As for the future, who knows? We’ve been asked if we will carry on, and only time will tell: We are not ruling out possibilities or eleventh hour reprieves. As ever, we will keep you informed and in our hearts.

With love and thanks,
Modern Times Bookstore Collective.

Marke B.
Marke Bieschke is the publisher and arts and culture editor of 48 Hills. He co-owns the Stud bar in SoMa. Reach him at marke (at), follow @supermarke on Twitter.


  1. If they rework the McDonald’s site or south side of CCSF there may be new street frontage opportunities like along ocean to connect to mission… The site of the little bear school may have some retail in the future project as well.

  2. Actually u may be wrong there… JHSF is moving forward with a larger project there’s another one off ocean and Allemany, another down near Geneva and another at the old funeral home… Density along the mission is heading to the excelsior and many residents of the excelsior D11 want to see businesses relocate and are ready with $ to patronage local merchants and smaller local shops in the excelsior.

  3. I thought MT was a destination, not a walk-in.

    Maybe some storefront on Ocean, with lots of college kids nearby.

  4. Only trouble is, the Excelsior doesn’t necessarily have the foot traffic or clientele that might sustain a Modern Times.

  5. Move to the excelsior or vis-valley

    Lots of store fronts and coffee shops.

    And we need good bookstores!

    Maybe near the JHSF or down towards the new schlage lock factory development!

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