A message from Noella & Joe, Founders & Owners of ISSUES in Oakland
To our dear friends, family, and community,
We started ISSUES in 2007 in a small shop in our own neighborhood because we loved print and believed in community. This was at a time when everyone was saying that 'print is dead' and that the written word would soon only be available electronically. We believed otherwise and created a space where print was not only accessible, but thrived. We brought in rare magazines from all over the world as well as domestic favorites. In addition to magazines, we felt a strong connection with independent publishers and carefully curated a selection of books covering everything from music and art, to the odd and obscure. We also carried records, t-shirts, and buttons in an effort to showcase the amazing music that we held so dear.
From the beginning, the support for ISSUES was overwhelming. Friends became customers and customers became friends. We held events such as art shows, book release parties, readings, record swaps, bake sales for charitable causes, and we even started the Piedmont Avenue Tree Lighting Ceremony because we wanted the holidays in our neighborhood to be special. We held anniversary parties almost every year, including one with a Chili Cook-Off moderated by local celebrity judges, and we had a blast. Our community rallied behind us and we did everything we could to support the people that made our home so great.
We also had our challenges along the way, but we survived. We lived through the recession of 2008 and operated on razor-thin margins for years, taking only enough money for ourselves to pay for our rent-controlled apartments and live very modestly. Then in 2018, we moved our store off of Piedmont Avenue for a year. Even then, the community showed up for us, and we were able to raise funds through an IndieGoGo campaign to support our move and keep us going. But after being gone for a year, an opportunity arose which allowed us to move back to a new space right on Piedmont Avenue and have a new start. And once again, our customers were there for us and came to our new location in droves. We also met so many new people that had moved to the neighborhood over the past year, and they too became friends and champions of ISSUES.
At the beginning of 2020 we were settled into our new location and on sound footing for the future. Then COVID-19 hit. Sales started to slow down and we were mandated to close as of March 17th. We didn't want to leave our employees in a bad situation, so we sold gift certificates online to pay them for four weeks. Then the Shelter In Place was extended and we were forced to send back any returnable magazines that we could to partially cover vendor bills. We then resorted to selling what merchandise we had left online, and once again, our community was there for us, ordering product and taking a shot at new publications in order to support us. We were able to survive day-by-day because of the generosity of others.
Now, we find ourselves in a heartbreaking position. After being closed for two months and losing all of the revenue that would have mostly been used to restock the store, we are out of funds. We do not have the capital to reorder magazines and start anew. We have spent the past two months applying for every loan and grant that we could possibly find, and so far, we have received zero funding from any sources. Our small business has been left behind.
We are absolutely devastated to announce to you that ISSUES will not be reopening. We simply cannot weather this storm. After thirteen years in Oakland, our time here has come to an end. We are filled with grief that we could not make this work and continue to serve you, our community, that we love so dearly. We are beyond sad.
We know that many of you purchased gift certificates to help support our staff during our closure. We are heartbroken about that as well. Some businesses would just close and leave it at that, but we don't want to go out that way. If you purchased a gift certificate and you want to be refunded, we will do that for you. If you want to consider it a donation to us, we would be grateful. We still have vendor payments, bills, credit card debt, and loans that will need to be repaid or settled before we move on fully, so everything helps. We also will be selling remaining books and merchandise on our online store, so please look out for that soon.
We never wanted to make this announcement. We wanted ISSUES to be a special place in the community forever. We poured our hearts and our souls into ISSUES and Oakland for thirteen years and it was our baby. Again, we are devastated and heartbroken. Thank you for making these years so amazing for us. We never could have done this without all of you. Please take care.
With all our hearts, Noella & Joe, 5 May 2020