Thidwick Books on Clement closing this Friday; another ADA casualty

Thanks to all the readers that have written in about Thidwick Books at 11 Clement Street and their imminent closure.

Word from the owner, Lea, is that they are being sued for American Disability Act (ADA) violations. Apparently the store is too small to comply with ADA requirements and there is a step up into the front door.

The store is being sued by a lawyer (the same one that caused the shutdown of Geary’s Big Heart Video Cafe?) for thousands of dollars. So the bookstore will be closing its doors this Friday, on Christmas Eve. Stop by to say goodbye and pick up and last minute gifts this week.

Lea will be putting her inventory in storage while she looks for a new home for Thidwick’s. Let’s hope she keeps her charming, well-loved store here in the neighborhood.

Sarah B.


  1. So awful. I don’t understand how such a small space can be expected to comply. I am sure if a person called ahead to request things, the shop would happily do whatever the customer wanted. I used to work at a non-compliant bookstore in another city, and we would do anything to accommodate those customers who could not access our store. No one ever sued! Good luck, Thidwick’s, we’ll miss you (hope you can reopen in the neighborhood somewhere!)

  2. It’s really a shame. This grinch goes throughout the city and with the help of a less than forthright lawyer sues folks for ADA. The money is split and what a surprise, none of the monies go to people who could use it. Grandma used to say there is a place reserved in hell for these types of nefarious ner’ do well’s.

  3. Unfortunate. The step is obviously not wheelchair passable. I don’t see how the landlord will hope to place another store there, since you can’t exactly build any kind of ramp there (not enough space between door and street). You’d have to recess the doorway a fair amount to get a ramp into that doorway. A shame that the renter had to pay the price.

  4. So this lawyer is on the rampage and going to places to sue? It would be nice to know the name and contact info of this lawyer so we the people can take action. I don’t see other neighborhoods with a heinous vampire. Why here?

    Please post the name and info of this attorney. merci beaucoup…

  5. Yeah, is Eric Mar even concerned about our small, beloved Richmond businesses? It seems like he’s too busy worrying about happy meals to really notice what’s going on in his own district.

  6. I think this problem goes well above Eric Mar’s pay grade. While he would express convincing empathy I’m sure, he would probably oppose the reasonable changes needed to minimize some of the draconian aspects of the federal ADA and the enhanced CA ADA. Bottom line is that the trial lawyer lobby loves the ADA and has incredible influence with CA’s majority party. In any event, if the lawyer is who I think it is, I don’t think the richmond district is being targeted. The number of cases/demand letters that the guy files throughout northern CA is incredible.

  7. The comments on the Big Heart Video Cafe post mention Thomas Edward Frankovich as the lawyer in question: http://www.disabilitieslaw.com/
    But, don’t blame him, blame the politicians who made what he is doing possible. So if you are upset about this, tell it to your congressman.

  8. I dunno, it’s sad, yes, but I don’t think that ADA access is their only problem. I’ve tried to patronize this store on several occasions, and every time I’ve gone in there with my well behaved, quiet young son — a kid who stays right by my side, doesn’t yell or grab or whine — the person on duty has made me feel very unwelcome. After the last time, when she was really bordering on outright rudeness, I decided to never return.

  9. I thought the ADA regs were meant to benefit people with disabilities, not enrich bottom-feeding attorneys. Isn’t there something that can be done to stop these frivolous lawsuits that are driving small businesses from our neighborhoods? Is there no room to negotiate or provide alternate, reasonable accommodations? If Eric Mar won’t help, perhaps the offices of Senator Leland Yee and/or Fiona Ma?

  10. @SF Bear,
    Yes I do blame the lawyer. There are many things that are lawful and unscrupulous. Just as a hedge fund manager. Grant them a get out of jail free card, I think not. This store, KOlds story aside is a going business that is the fabric of our neighborhood.Politician? you over praise Eric Mar and what he is doing at city hall. Meanwhile it is the holidays,on to the happy meals!

  11. The Americans with Disability act is a federal law and i think has also been strengthened by the state – http://www.ada.gov/ SF’s legislative body can’t touch it.

    The lawyer who is going around the city doing this is a real jerk. He isn’t targeting the richmond, he is going after every business in SF – http://blogs.sfweekly.com/foodie/2010/08/chile_lindo_closes.php

    For a perspective on why people use ada to sue: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/415/crybabies

  12. David H,
    In my opinion it’s naive to expect a mortgage banker, an oil drilling corporation or a lawyer to do what’s moral and ethical. They will always be doing what’s best for them and their shareholders. It’s normal. It couldn’t be any other way.
    What is not normal is the regulators and politicians giving them an opportunity to screw us.

    BTW, I don’t over praise Eric Mar. Quite the opposite, I can’t wait to see him recalled 🙂

  13. I wonder what the laws are in San Francisco about do-it-yourself construction. It would be easy enough to use two long triangular sheets of plywood, and one rectangular sheet, and another smaller rectangular sheet to create a mold. After they were nailed together to form a wedge-shaped mold, cement (concrete?) could be poured into the mold after it was secured at the correct angle. The resulting wedge should be about 4′ long. All the store owner would need are a four strong men with a pick-up truck to lift it and put it in front of the door. There would be the cost of the plywood, cement, hammer & nails, labor & a building permit, though there might be laws that require the hiring of professional builders. If the money is a problem because it’s a small business, maybe the owners could try to raise funds somehow.

  14. It’s *NOT* the ADA here, it’s the California Unruh Act. The Unruh Act makes it very very easy for persons in California to demand and get cash settlements, much easier than the ADA alone.

    You don’t see this BS going on in any other state but California.

    When Frankovich was interviewed a few years ago for one of the local papers, they reported he was perhaps the only private citizen in the City of SF with a legal concealed gun permit, due to his “advocacy” work we’re discussing here.

  15. Spoke to the owner of the gas station at 25th and California. He is also getting sued. It is a real shame. We are driving all of our small businesses out of business….

  16. I stopped in today to pick up a book before everything is packed. Although Leah does not have e mail to respond herself,I alerted her to the blog article and we read the comments and chatted. Here’s the gist of our conversation:
    1. Many many thanks for the positive comments, her face was quite aglow as she read them.
    2. She asked that I let folks know her landlord is great and has tried working this out for months and months, to no avail.
    3. The folks suing her offered of course to settle for a price. Accordning to her its the principle, and also, you settle one case; what to say when another person comes a knocking for more money?
    4. This store is one of many she has opened, she does love her business and customers quite a lot! She is packing up everything and taking a well earned break and will reopen at a better bigger and yes ADA compliant spot in the city.
    Stop in pick up some goodies before they are packed up for a while

  17. Thanks David for the info! Best of luck Leah and be sure to let us know where you land with your books. 🙂

    Sarah B.

  18. Eric in SF is correct. The problems with Unruh need to be attacked at the CA legislative level not at the SF BOS level (although the Supes seem to provide a non-binding opinion on everything else). I doubt Yee or Leno would support reasonable Unruh modifications but Fiona Ma has unusual common sense for a politician so maybe she is the best local hope. There is also talk of a statewide initiative being brought to the ballot to go over the heads of the entrenched group in Sacramento if need be.

    In this holiday season, I really feel bad for the small business owners out there dealing with this type of legal ‘extortion’ in addition to the bad economy.

  19. It’s a shame to see all these places in the neighborhood closing. Just wondering, when someone is sued are they being sued by a private individual or is it some non-profit group who has hired an attorney? I’m disgusted to hear that she was asked to settle for a price. Isn’t the primary purpose of being sued to make the business up to code with the ADA? Disgusted!

  20. i spoke to the owner of thidwick and she has already invested in an expensive, folding ADA compliant ramp and a buzzer system for her store, so that she could accommodate the needs of most handicapped people.
    but this wasn’t enough for the fat slob who is suing her. i used to live in the neighborhood and i’ve seen this guy. he looks like a fat, dirty, bloated sock in a wheelchair. smells a bit like one, too. apparently him and his lawyer have a long history of going around the bay area suing businesses.
    i’ve also heard that they have even made arrangements with some business to simply get paid off every time he shows up, in order to avoid being sued.
    businesses familiar with him will notify their neighbors and all go “out to lunch” in order to avoid dealing with him.
    this jerk and his lawyer deserve are a sad, hateful bunch.

  21. It is unfortunate that an unscrupulous lawyer Tom Frankovich has exploited the law and has filed serial disability lawsuits targeting small business owners not just in the Richmond District, but throughout the city and state. Our office has heard from several businesses in the Richmond. This is a complicated legal issue concerning state and federal regulation and we are working with the Office of Small Business to find them the help they need in these tough times so that they can continue doing business. Each case is unique but there are services and lending facilities that can help. -Linshao Chin, Legislative Aide, Office of Supervisor Mar

  22. Lin, thanks for your comment and representing Supervisor Mar’s thoughts here. I plan to provide your comments in a separate post as well.

    Sarah B.

  23. As if small independent bookstores don’t have enough struggles these days! And isn’t it the landlord’s responsibility, not the shop’s? Seems to me the landlord should be the target of the lawsuit, not the tenant.

  24. @Jeff – Yes, it is the owner of the building, e.g. the landlord that is being sued. However the retail spaces in the building are forced to either upgrade or close down. And if the landlord can’t come up with the funds, the businesses have no choice but to close. See comment #17 above for an update from the bookshop owner.

    Sarah B.

  25. The lawyer who is suing Thidwicks is Timothy Squire Thimesch, he is the other lawyer that works with Yates in addition to Frankovich. Apparently too many cases to keep up with, 55 cases this year alone.
    Besides Thidwicks, Period George and Village Pizzeria are also getting sued. Who knows, he might sue Period George and Village Pizzeria out of business as well. Yates is driving moms and pops out of businesses, taking people’s lifelyhood away. He has few girlfriends he brought back from Thailand/Indonesia, the girls said Yates takes very good care of him and they help him write letters to haunt businesses.

  26. There is nothing the landlord can do on the inside, like Thidwicks for example, she will need to scale back 30% of her inventory in order to comply with ADA 48″ aisles with room for them to make a 360 degree wheel chair turn inside the store. I spoke with Lea and she said that her landlord had been trying to comply, they are trying very hard to get approval from the city to build a ramp so there will be no step for her door. The building will be fully accessible to wheelchair as soon as Feb 1. Lea said the only way Yates will drop the lawsuit is if she go out of business, or she will have to pay Yates and his lawyer a few thousand dollars to drop the suit, so she decide to fold her business.
    Where are the politicians when we need them ?? Whimps !
    The entire judicial system in the US need to be rewritten.

  27. I talked to Lea before she closed for the day, she already spend $700 and got her Certified Access Specialist survey back in February, put in a bell so Yates could “ring for help”, and a portable ramp so if he wants to go inside. He never showed up since. She took her card racks out for 3 months, and that hurt her business.
    She talked to Timothy Squire Thimesch a few weeks ago (Yates’s lawyer) and she was told NOT TO go out of business. The conversation was “can we talk about this, all I want is some money to go away.”
    She said Timothy Squire Thimesch also mentioned that “by you going out of business makes me look bad”.
    These suits (55 of them so fa this year) are filed for extortion, not for ADA complaint as they are claiming. Sickening !
    Let’s see how many more business will fold because of this fat Ass !

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