San Francisco's Marcus Books, one of America's oldest African American bookstores, may be saved

By Funke Oyelade,

One of America’s oldest African-American bookstores, Marcus Books, may be able to stay open if the owners can raise $2.6 million.

On June 19, 2013, the San Francisco Examiner reported that Marcus Books was on the brink of closure. The bookstore began in 1960 and has been located in San Francisco for over 50 years. The owners were told to move out by June 18 by the new owners.

During 2006, owners Gregory and Karen Johnson took out a $950,000 loan, but little did they know that the loan was predatory. They paid a fixed monthly rate on a 10 percent interest rate.

Due to the financial stress of the loan, the Johnsons had to file bankruptcy while trying to raise the money to save the building, and the building was placed on the market. Nishan and Suhalia Sweis purchased the building for $1.59 million in April.

Dr. Mary Ann Jones, the executive director of Westside Community Services, offered to pay the new owners $1.64 million for the building because they use the space for meetings. However, the Sweises refused to sell the building for less than $3.2 million and asked a judge to order evictions.

Now, the Sweises have changed their tune. According to SF Gate, a new agreement has been reached between the previous owners and the new owners of Marcus Books.

The Johnson’s have until February to raise $2.6 million to buy the Fillmore Street Property. Nonprofit organization Westside Community Services has offered to loan the owners $1.65 million to help buy back the building. The San Francisco Community Land Trust will be helping to raise an additional $1 million.


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