Among an increasingly long list of imminent reopenings, the Mission District’s beloved cultural space and bookstore, Alley Cat Bookstore & Gallery, is set to open its doors Thursday, October 29 — with a curated vinyl collection and “new intentions” for the independent bookstore.
As of late, bookstores (and sex shops) have become a balm in a time marked by social distancing and a worsening pandemic. And with SF libraries still closed for indoor operation, our local independents are evolving into much-needed centers for cerebral curiosity, community engagement, and convivial interactions… outside of Zoom or Google Hangout calls.
“Bookstores are needed more than ever for the things they inherently provide, like giving people a place to meet, share ideas, and find new things,” says Kate Razo, owner of Alley Cat Bookstore & Gallery, as well as both of SF’s Dog Eared Book locations, to Hoodline. “Even though our libraries are doing curbside pick-up, you can’t just go in and look through stacks of literature. But, thankfully, places like Alley Cat Bookstore & Gallery can fill this void that’s left so many San Franciscans feeling hollow.”
Razo’s bookstore on 24th Street, between Treat and Harrison streets, has been a neighborhood staple for nearly a decade; it’ll be celebrating its 9th birthday this week. But the pandemic has lent an ostensible blow to its ability to say afloat amid waning foot traffic and operational restrictions. Not unlike the thousands of Bay Area businesses that have closed since the pandemic began, Alley Cat Bookstore & Gallery was in danger of going the way of the dodo bird.
Charitable donors have flooded a GoFundMe campaign for Alley Cat Bookstore & Gallery over the past seven months. The fundraiser has raised over $25,000 since launching on March 18th — one day after the historic Bay Area-wide SIP order was enacted — which is about half of its goal. In tandem, other fundraisers organized by Razo for each of the Dog Eared Book locations have raised similar totals. Alley Cat Bookstore & Gallery’s Patreon page is also proving particularly popular and profitable, helping further buoy the business through these “humbling times,” as Razo notes.
But the store — which was deep cleaned by Razo herself, oftentimes leaving the painter and proprietress dusting corners and pieces of the store that “haven’t seen light in years — will now regard itself anew when it opens this coming Thursday, October 29.
Razo, however, believes that this is not a time to bring every bit of the past back into the present moment.
Moving into the mercurial future, Alley Cat Bookstore & Gallery will stock more Spanish language books, a new (and incredibly diverse) collection of vinyl records, artworks from local creatives, and focus more on the “front of the store.”
“Before the pandemic, the event space outside was one main focus for us,” Razo adds in a nod to those maskless days of yestermonth.
“But obviously those kinds of large gatherings aren’t going to work these days,” she continues. “These past few months have been such a complete stop, we’ve asked ourselves what’s the best thing we can do now, and how can we make this space better than it was before. And for the time being, that means really concentrating on the front of the store to make sure it reflects the needs and wants of the community and our customers.”
Razo waxes in conversation that she’s not ruling out the idea of one day hosting social distant soirees at the former event space, though she’s “hoping people come to me with ideas.”
Regardless of what lies ahead for the Mission District literary bastion, Alley Cat Bookstore & Gallery will now be open Thursday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“I think going forward, it’s vitally important that we all, as a collective, business, and society altogether, look to not forget the past, but make sure we learn from it and carry those lessons into the days, weeks, and years to come,” Razo adds in closing. “Like becoming more of a community space, it’s one of the new intentions I have for this bookstore. I really want this space to help people realize their full potentials, connect with others, and invite intellectual curiosity and stimulating conversations back into our lives.”
For more information on Alley Cat Bookstore & Gallery, as well as details on their ongoing Patreon page and current book recommendations, visit alleycatbookshop.com.
Alley Cat Bookstore & Gallery is located at 3036 24th Street in the Mission District and will be open from Thursday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., starting October 29.