SAN FRANCISCO - Many would consider Green Apple Books on busy Clement Street in San Francisco's Richmond District an institution. After all it opened its doors in 1967.
Now, the owners of the bookstore have turned to online sales to comply with the coronavirus shelter-in-place order. Most employees have been laid off.
"I just want to unlock the door and let people back into the store," said Kevin Ryan, co-owner of Green Apple Books and two other bookstores in the city.
Inside the store, it's unnaturally quiet. The shelves are filled, but there's no one browsing in the isles.
"It's amazing how quickly it shut down," said Ryan,"It's very strange. Got the garbage cans in the store. Boxes in places where there ordinarily wouldn't be boxes."
The business is coping with the third week of shelter in place.
Ryan said he can't pay rent. He now depends on selling books online which he says has increased substantially, but the margin for profit is slim.
"The orders are filled from a third-party source and so they take their cuts," said Ryan.
"It's kind of my go-to place. Walk in here two or three times a week," said Steven Dinkelspiel, a longtime patron who lives nearby. He said he recently placed his first online order with the store's website.
"I miss the fact that I can't come in here and ask for recommendations about books that will help me escape the unpleasant thoughts that all of us are having and the loneliness some of us are experiencing," said Dinkelspiel.
The bookstore will be hosting its first online event Tuesday at 5 p.m. via Zoom with an author who's releasing a new book.
Ryan hopes this dark chapter will end soon.
"I love my job. I miss coming into the store and touching the books, seeing my customers and booksellers."
He said he's optimistic that he will be able re-open the store once the shelter-in-place order is lifted.
Ryan said the question is how many people will come into the store to buy books once this crisis is over.