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After 53 Years, the Country's Oldest Black Bookstore Has Closed

The historic Marcus Book Store was named after Marcus Garvey
The historic Marcus Book Store was named after Marcus Garvey

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Marcus Bookstore was the first black bookstore in the country when it opened in San Francisco 53 years ago. Twenty years later in 1981, it moved to 1712 Fillmore Street, where it has operated ever since. But when co-owner Karen Johnson arrived at the store on Thursday, May 8, her key didn't work, the San Francisco Examiner reports. Johnson wrote in an open letter:

The locks have been changed, the cavalry is not in sight, and it's time to pack up the books and store them till we find another space.

For more than a year, the owners struggled to stay in business. The family originally owned the building, but trouble started when the they took out a loan in 2006 and several years later defaulted on payments. Nishan and Suhaila Sweis snapped up the historic Victorian at auction for $1.59 million—it would likely go for $3 million or more on the open market.

The store has hosted the likes of Earth Wind & Fire, Les Nubians, Dave Chappelle, Malcolm X, Alice Walker, Muhammad Ali, Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby and many other notable folks (see the full list and read the full history of the shop).

The Johnson's tried to raise enough money to buy back the building, but they fell short by at least $750,000. Marcus Book Stores operates a second location in Oakland at 3900 Martin Luther King Junior Way.
· Save Marcus Books! [SF Bay View]
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· Marcus Bookstore Saved for Now; Still Faces Potential Closure [Racked SF]

Marcus Book Store

1712 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA