Secondhand bookstore Flow Bookshop has been temporarily spared from forced closure after receiving a seven-day extension from its landlord to raise funds for paying up its overdue rent.

Its owner, Surdham Lam Sam, issued an urgent appeal Sunday evening seeking public donations by 10am Monday, an hour before a public auction was scheduled to clear the assets of the 20-year-old bookstore.

flow bookstore
Photo: Flow, via Facebook.

“I am not sure what happened exactly in terms of legal procedure, but the auction was effectively called off. It is like being relieved from a death sentence,” Lam told HKFP.

The bookstore has until Sunday to raise HK$150,000.

Lam said he received many private messages and donations from supporters overnight after the appeal was publicised. Though the donations were not enough to meet the target set by his landlord, he was able to convince the landlord to give him an extension.

“We were able to prevent many books from being thrown away today,” he said. “Thank you everyone for your messages and donations that came through all night.”

flow bookshop
The building where Flow is located. Photo: Flow Bookshop, via Facebook.

Besides shoring up funds, Lam was asked to present proposals to the landlord on how he will meet payment deadlines in the future. He said he is looking for help with drafting business sustainability plans, especially from people with experience in running social enterprises.

“Even though I must admit that I have lost credibility as a tenant, because I have not been prudent with rent payment, I hope I can carry on the spirit of Flow: respect and value every person who comes here to look for books,” Lam said.

“The idea of Flow is to extend the lifespans of books by passing them to new owners,” he added. “When you no longer want a book, please remember to pass it on – to keep the flow going. This is what I have been devoted to over the last 20 years.”

Lam received a court order freezing the bookstore’s assets on May 5. He issued the first public appeal last Tuesday after failing to mediate with the landlord.

“Save FlowBooks from vanishing into thin air.”Dear Flow-ers of FlowBooks,I love U. Please forgive me. Sorry. Thank…

Posted by Flow Bookshop on Tuesday, 9 May 2017

He tried to raise money by borrowing from friends and running an emergency sale of books that were placed outside the shop. He said he sent the funds raised to the landlord several times during the period, but was told that the amount was insufficient.

On Sunday, he was told that a public auction would proceed on Monday morning. He issued an urgent appeal less than 13 hours before the auction was set to take place.

Though the auction was cancelled at the last minute, the bookstore has been padlocked to protect the interests of the landlord. Lam did not blame the landlord, saying that they have been “very compassionate” in allowing him to postpone rent payments.

Lam asked supporters to refrain from visiting the bookstore while it is locked up, but said he is keen to meet with people interested in helping him get through the crisis.

Lam was an environmental protection officer before founding Flow Bookshop in 1997. The bookstore was relocated several times before settling at its current location on Lyndhurst Terrace in Central.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.