Of the many peculiar things about living in San Francisco, the one that has always struck me most was this sense that each neighborhood is its own little universe. A city within a city. A bubble. You hear people say things like, “but it’s in the Sunset, I don’t want to go all the way out there.” Meanwhile the entirety of San Francisco spans a mere seven by seven miles. It’s an odd phenomenon. And as such, having lived in the Mission for 8 years now, I have to be reminded sometimes that there is more to see and discover than what exists within the few blocks surrounding my home. Months before my girlfriend moved from her neighborhood to live with me, I had such an opportunity. She was living in the Richmond in a small studio apartment. A week-long “living together” trial turned into three months. So I had a good deal of time to explore previously unchartered territory. One of my greatest finds, and there were many, was a deceptively cozy yet massive bookstore called Green Apple Books. This place is simply amazing, and, as an avid reader, I was dumbfounded I’d never been before.
Green Apple books is literally filled from end to end with merchandise-thousands upon thousands of new and used books, rare and vintage comic books, a fantastic magazine collection, a huge DVD selection as well as cute little oddities and their own line of t-shirts, hoodies and hats. It took me back to a time when I used to visit my best junior high school friend. His bedroom was always a magical discovery of all the best comics books and cassette tapes, and I could spend hours falling into make believe land. Green Apple captures that spirit wonderfully. But the sheer volume and variety you find these days at Green Apple hasn’t always been the case. Founded by Richard Savoy in 1967 at the age of 25, the store began as a tiny 750 square feet which has continued to grow over the years. In 1996, the selling space increased from 5,000 to 8,000 square feet, and most recently Richard acquired next-door Revolver records to accommodate their diverse DVD collection. It’s a sight to behold, staircases and hallways with vintage gas light fixtures and dusty rooms each leading to a new discovery, a new distraction, and possibly your next can’t-put-it-down read.
But in this day and age of buying books online or reading them with an electronic reader, how does Green Apple manage to stay competitive? By being creative, savvy and, most importantly, by inviting you to be a part of a community. Decades after the opening, Richard recently assembled a team of employees to take over the business. Kevin Hunsanger, Kevin Ryan, and Pete Mulvihill spent the past few years learning how to embody Richard’s special vision, as well as bringing new ideas to the table to help the store adapt and prosper. One example I find super appealing is the Apple-A-Month-Club. You can subscribe to it and have a new book the staff loves mailed to you every month. For myself, I still prefer to take little trips with my girlfriend out to a different neighborhood and walk along the bookshelves, smell the old wood and flip though the dog eared vintage copies of beautifully selected literature, and hold those priceless, rare records and comics in my very own hands.
Visit Green Apple Books in the bustling Richmond district at 506 Clement Street and be sure to download StoreSnaps onto your iPhone so you can keep up to date with info and products.