Meet The Green Arcade, A Bookstore With A Conscience

There’s a jukebox in the corner, some psychedelic paint on the walls, and a host of regulars who always find what they’re looking for. Welcome to The Green Arcade, Market Street's independent outlet for books, green ideas and more.

Don’t expect to find fairytales or the latest celebrity memoir on The Green Arcade’s shelves. Owner Patrick Marks doesn’t offer any excuses for his highly curated selection of "green" books (hence the name), and he boasts an inventory that specializes in San Francisco and California history, the environment, politics and social justice, cooking, food and farming.

With decades in the business, Marks can rally off name after name of influential author that pertains to any number of subjects – he’s been the buyer for Cody’s Books on Telegraph Avenue (“one of the best bookstores in the country,” he said) and in the ‘80s managed Tro Harper Books, a location that was eventually sold to the local chain Books Inc.

His relatively small shop finds harmony on the hustle and bustle of Market Street, where locals drop by to find a rare book on sustainability or members of San Francisco’s Planning Department stop in for a little environmental building research. Marks had always coveted a space on Market Street near Gough for its central location, and it's evident from the store’s participation in rallies and local events that being in the center of it all is part of The Green Arcade's identity.

The Green Arcade logo designer, artist Gent Sturgeon (photo via Green Arcade) 

Don’t expect anyone to “shush” you as you walk through the shop, which brims with books on politics, environmentalism, local history, and sustainability. While we visited, a few regulars picked up a book and sat down to read, while others dropped by to ask Marks if he’d order up a specific title for them. “You have certain people in mind that you buy for, and I only buy what I like myself,” he said about his unique selection of titles. “There are areas that I don’t really know anything about, so I don’t really deal with them.”  

Marks’ involvement in the Green Festival, a local event created by Global Exchange, initially sparked the inspiration for the store, but this venture has remained relevant by hosting events, readings and simply a wide selection of books, both new and used. "I started selling books at [Green Festivals] based around the green theme, environmentalism and politics," he said, "and thought I'd do the same thing with a store that's a distilled selection based on my experience there."

The Green Arcade’s calendar is already full for the year, with Rebecca Coffey presenting her novel Hysterical: Anna Freud’s Story on Wednesday, Greg Proops of “Whose Line is it Anyway” presenting his latest book at the 3rd Floor McRoskey Mattress Factory in an event co-sponsored by City Lights Books in May, and more book signings and author events on the way.

Stop by for the latest in environmental and socially aware materials, or just to check out an independent bookstore with a mission, a growing rarity in today's retail landscape.

The Green Arcade is at 1680 Market St. Hours are from noon-8pm daily, noon-7pm on Sundays.

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