The Yerba Buena neighborhood in SoMa is home to San Francisco’s first Bicycle-Friendly Business District. To highlight some of these great bicycle-friendly businesses, we’ll be running a series of profiles to give you a peek into what the Yerba Buena Bicycle-Friendly Business District has to offer. This week: Alexander Book Company on 2nd Street.
Alexander Book Company is a locally-owned, independent bookstore located on 2nd Street in the heart of downtown San Francisco. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition sat down with Alexander Book Company owner Bonnie Stuppin to talk about the importance of supporting local business, bike shopping and even some recommended reading. Alexander Book Co. has great bike parking in front of their shop and is a strong supporter of the 2nd Street protected bikeways.
How long has the Alexander Book Co. been in business and what brought you to the Yerba Buena neighborhood?
We opened on November 15, 1990, so we’ll be 24 this year. When my brother was looking for a location to open a bookstore he realized that this part of downtown / SoMa really didn’t have a general independent store. Staceys was around the corner on Market Street, but at that point they had a strong focus on technical books and less on general interest trade titles.
Why did you decide to be a part of the Bicycle-Friendly Business District?
Promoting pedestrian and bicycle use of 2n Street makes sense. We want our customers to have a safe way to come to the book store.
Alexander Book Co. has been very engaged in the community and supported street redesigns like our 2nd Street campaign. Why do you believe community involvement is important for independent businesses?
We certainly wouldn’t be here if we weren’t involved in the community. The neighborhood has changed a lot in the years since we opened. Many of the old “mom and pop” stores and businesses are gone. Small, locally-owned shops have business owners who are directly involved with their customers and know what adds to (or takes away) from the neighborhood’s “feel”. We want people to shop at and patronize our businesses.
You have also been strong advocates for ‘shopping local’. How do people who ride bikes fit into to this way of thinking and shopping?
Bike shoppers are keeping it really local! Most of the ones who have come into the bookstore live in San Francisco and bring their own bags. They utilize their local bike shops to keep their bikes in top shape, and they shop here to keep their minds active — learning, exploring new ideas and enjoying great stories. People who ride bikes seem to understand the connection that spending their money locally has on the local economy. There is no corporate headquarters across the country where the profits go, they stay right here in the Bay Area!
What good bicycling books should we be reading right now?
Want to hear about a crazy fun one? It’s called Frog Music and it’s a novel by Emma Donoghue that’s set in the Barbary Coast area of San Francisco in the late 1870’s. One of the main characters is Jenny Bonnet — male-dressing, and the local restaurant’s frog-catcher —rides a penny-farthing bike! It’s a murder mystery that shows the seamy and steamy side of our beloved city. We also have a new paperback that cyclists will love reading: Going Somewhere: A Bicycle Journey Across America by Brian Benson. A man and his new girlfriend embark on a cross-country ride from Wisconsin to Western Oregon, during which they discover a lot about themselves, each other and the country.
Stop by Alexander Book Co. to pick up your latest read. They have great bike parking outside.