Thursday, June 26, 2008

12th Street Books

It's been a bad week for Manhattan's bookstores. First we heard the Strand Annex will be shuttering. Then the rumor that Biography Bookshop might be closing turned out to be partly true--they are in their final year. Finally, I discovered that 12th Street Books will be closing this summer.



After a decade on 12th between University and 5th, the bookshop's lease is ending and the neighboring restaurant, Strip House, is expanding into the space.

Strip House is one of those odd upscale chains that manages to keep its chain-identity on the down low--they've got a total of 9 locations, and their owners, the Glazier Group, also own at least 4 other restaurants, including Michael Jordan's Steak House. Their website says, "Our locations reflect our interest in historical environments throughout New York City. Drawn to preserving important cultural landscapes, we interpret their past and blend those details with a modern spirit."



Sadly, in 1999, Strip House replaced 75-year-old Asti, "one of New York's most beloved and treasured restaurants," where the waitstaff sang opera while they served Italian dishes. Said one baritone at the time, "In the last decade, our customers either died, retired or could no longer afford to come regularly." I kicked myself when it closed, having never made a visit. Somehow, I doubt that Strip House has managed to preserve the historical, cultural landscape of Asti.

Of Mr. Glazier, the Strip House website says he has "put a permanent mark on New York City's history and landscape by taking ordinary locations and converting them into spectacular concepts." Correction: Asti was the absolute opposite of ordinary and 12th Street Books is a rarity in a city hellbent on making bookstores disappear.



Luckily, 12th Street has found a new space, but it's nowhere near the Village. I spoke to Macklin, the guy who's often mistaken for the owner, and he told me about their plans to move to 179 Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn, where they will change their name to Atlantic Books. He expects they'll be gone in late August. Until then, if you have books to sell, bring them to 12th Street. They'd love to buy them and it's a way to give them support.

For the record, I am really going to miss this bookshop. They often have what I'm looking for and I regularly pass by, stopping in to find books I didn't know I wanted. 12th Street is one of a dying breed of used bookshops--a breed I predict will almost completely vanish from Manhattan in the next 5 years.

16 comments:

Ron F. said...

Sad news, even though I no longer live anywhere near the store. I was always pleasantly surprised by the range and quality of their stock, and their prices were more than fair. When they opened they seemed to be reversing the trend of the disappearing used book stores in the Union Square area. Brooklyn residents are lucky to be getting this charming throwback.

EV Grieve said...

I can't wait to browse for old books...on the Internet. Ugh. I hate that this is happening to these stores.

And thanks for recalling Asti. I loved that place. I seem to remember, too, that they served Schaefer in a can.

Alex in NYC said...

Oh that fuckin' sucks. First of all, I'm a big fan of steak, but I've never liked the Strip House -- too expensive, to Californian-feeling and the steaks SIMPLY AREN'T GOOD ENOUGH (esp. for what yr payin'). 12th Street Books will be sorely missed.

On an unrelated note, you should probably have something to say about this:

http://gawker.com/tag/casting/?i=397187&t=sjp-to-star-in-groundbreaking-film-about-new-york-city-lady

Carol Gardens said...

For once, this is good new...for ME. I live near Atlantic. Yep, this is a particularly solid and interesting used book store. With Freebird and Book Court nearby as well, I am starting to feel spoiled.

Jeremiah Moss said...

good one, alex, thanks. i added it today. i am rather speechless, though.

carol g, you brooklynites are lucking out--for now. as today's post shows, "brooklyn tomorrow" is a nightmare. in the meantime, take good care of 12th St Books.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to read about Asti's. Once celebrated New Year's Eve there. My fellow celebrants and I still talk about it. NYC has become the graveyard of memories.

Erik Heywood said...

12th St. is a great store. They've been plotting a move to Brooklyn for some time, so hopefully they've got a good plan together. I'm heartbroken about the Strand Annex. I much preferred the experience there to the suffocating 12th st. location. In the summer they sometimes keep the doors open and ocean air would breeze softly through. I loved it there. At least there is still the Strand, but, oh, poor Chez Brigitte! Where will I get such a perfect inexpensive sole sandwich now?

quixoticire said...

Not sure if you're interested with this closing, but Nicola Paone will be soon be vansishing.

JackSzwergold said...

Well, Brooklyn can't get that gentrified. The deal is that even in 2008 I meet people who are baffled at how people can live in Brooklyn. Seriously. Even went on a few dates with a fine lady who had baffling NYC prejudices and was insistent that Brooklyn was "boring". There's stilll a stigma about Brooklyn no matter where one lives that most transplants can't get over.

Near me there are a few insta-condos that opened and they are mostly empty and the first floor businesses are... Mortgage brokers. Not a good sign at all.

So Ratner can build whatever he wants. It's not going to change this borough that much at all. And at this rate, Ratner has built not too much.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks quixot, just added it to today's post

bs said...

That's a great bookstore.
It sucks that they are getting the boot, but it'll be much more convenient for me. Hope they do well at the new location.

Anonymous said...

Manhattan has much more of a stigma these days than Brooklyn. At least it's not a over priced mall. I know, I know, yet...

Jamey Hecht said...

Dammit! I used to work at 12th St Books... as a substitute, for about a month. I loved it there! Jed was a bit abrasive, but nobody can avoid being abrasive who resembles Christopher Hitchens so much. Anyway, Macklin is a great guy and it was a good, good store. Aw shit.

Bbethany7 said...

I lived and worked in the Village for
38 years. Asti was always seen as a tourist trap. Patrons were carted from midtown
in excursion buses. I even knew an Italian woman who sang there, but said she wouldn't eat the bland food tamed down
for people from Omaha or Duluth...sort
of a Mama Leone's or Rumpelmayer's
where New Yorkers seldom ventured.

Anonymous said...

I remember Jamey! He couldn't work a cash register...

Jamey Hecht said...

Hello, Anonymous: Right you are! I forgot to mention the fact that indeed I could not work the cash register! I'm sorry for the inconvenience that I may have caused some patrons. I tried to make up for it in expertise, kindness and charm. Ciao!

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