Don Blyly shared a lot of new information about the future prospects of Uncle Hugo’s SF Bookstore in an interview with the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal: “His bookstores burned. Don Blyly wants to keep selling”.
The amount of loss:
“The Uncles,” as Blyly refers to the stores, contained over 100,000 used and new volumes when they burned. There were rare signed editions and decades of collectibles. He estimated the retail value at around $1 million.
What he expects from insurance:
Both his inventory and his building were insured, and Blyly said he’s been assured by his attorney that the policy will cover the loss. But that hasn’t erased his worries.
Blyly’s old policy expired May 23, and while he renewed the policy, he hadn’t yet received an invoice for his first payment when the fire hit.
“So I’m rather nervous about this,” he said.
Like many retailers, Blyly was already struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic, which had prevented him from opening his stores to walk-in traffic since March. Four of his six employees had gone on unemployment, returning to work not long before the stores were destroyed.
While Blyly worked long hours to fill mail orders alone during the shutdown, cashflow was limited. He estimated he owes publishers about $50,000 for books delivered before the fire.
Why renting doesn’t appear to be an alternative to rebuilding.
“I have completely given up on the idea of finding a place to rent to get back into operation quickly,” Blyly added, expecting that vacant commercial storefronts will soon be in high demand.
Ultimately, he’d like to rebuild in the same locations he’s occupied since 1984.
“I’ll have to see whether or not the insurance company’s estimate of what it would take to rebuild it is close enough to the architect’s estimate,” he said.
For now, he’ll carry on as a mail order business.
In the meantime, Blyly plans to run a small mail order business out of his home. He’ll start by selling Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s branded T-shirts and sweatshirts; he recently ordered a two-year supply.
It will give him something to live on until he rebuilds. If he rebuilds.
“A lot of authors have offered to send me signed books, so I’ll be selling signed books on the internet,” he added. “And I’m going to start selling off my personal library one book at a time.”
GOFUNDME UPDATE. As of June 3, the “Official Help Save Uncle Hugo’s Fund” has raised $60,160 from over 1,100 donors.
FLASHBACK. Here’s a video interview with Don Blyly from 2011.
[Thanks to Kathryn Sullivan for the story.]