Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Shakespeare & Co.

Someday, sooner than I can stand, we won't quite remember what it feels like to enter a bookstore. To be in the presence of real books. The sweet papery aroma of it. The way your blood pressure pleasantly descends in that silent crowd. How the whole place holds you in its separate space, away from the world.



I went in to Shakespeare & Co. on Broadway to saturate myself with it before this one, too, is gone. As Grieve first reported, the bookshop has lost its lease. The rent has been hiked to an insane $50,000 or more.

I asked the cashier when they're closing. He wasn't sure, but figured it will be over by the end of June or the end of July. Who knows? "One day," he told me, "it'll just be gone. You'll come by and find a frozen yogurt shop here."

They're currently having a 20% off sale.



This bookstore always has the best displays, enticing tables of selections, helping you find your way to books you didn't know you wanted. They excel at titles on filmmaking and acting, and have many shelves loaded with plays. I love seeing those sherbet colored bindings on the little scripts.

Anyway, if you haven't yet, please go shove your Kindle up your ass.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

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Dave - Everywhere said...

I think your're being a bit unfair to Kindle users. I'm one and I'm also in the publishing business so I think I have a fairly balanced perspective on this. the fact of the matter is that the rent increase that this bookstore has been presented with is designed to drive them out of the space so that a "better" (i.e. - able to support a higher level of rent) tenant can come in. This is consistent with other situations you have reported on in your previously posts. People who buy for their e-reader also buy books (we know this from customer data) so it isn't e-books that are pushing the store out of the space, it's the rapacious landlords. B&N has also be hit with huge rent increases in the past few years and their choice has been to close stores rather than pay the extortionate rents in Manhattan.

Goggla said...

"please go shove your Kindle up your ass"

I'm going to put this on a shirt for you.

Ken Mac said...

City of Ghosts

Anonymous said...

Some better news - I have it on good authority that St. Marks has signed the lease for the new store on E. 3rd street and Ave A and are planning to move in by the end of June.
Cooper Union is their current rapacious landlord.

Anonymous said...

Considering the Strand was a mere ten blocks away I'm amazed they managed to survive this long. I always thought the large influx of college students from the ever expanding NYU would help keep them in business but I guess running a profitable bookstore in recent years has become a fools errand...

laura r. said...

let us know if its frozen yogart or a cell phone shop. maybe both together. then people can charge their phones, stuff their faces w/that fluffy stuff while they text. new concept.

laura r. said...

anon 5:17, maybe the strand owns the building? does anyone know? they look like they do a good business in the store & online. this post has inspired me to get my books down from the closet & re read. all from strand, publishers copies. i have become a "computer reader"- it is not healthy. dont know what a kindle is but it sounds like a small electric reading device. no thanks.

Renée M. said...

Jeremiah, have you ever been to the Pacific Northwest? Independent bookstores still flourish there. They even have their own association. My husband and I have often talked about retiring there, but until recently I couldn't bear the idea of being so far away from NY. But with news like this every other day I have even less reason to want to stay.

nic said...

Renee M., there are still plenty of great indy bookstores in NYC and more open all the time. It will be sad to see Shakespeare & Co. move, but I doubt they'll be going out of business. The sad truth is that real estate prices are turning neighborhoods in Manhattan into corporate strip malls so now the greatest places for bookstores are in the outer boroughs. We love books here, too, and although the publishing and bookseller landscape is changing, I doubt we'll ultimately find ourselves wanting for bookstores.

Will S. said...

But doesn't the closing have more to do with the insanely high rent than with the sale of books?

Renée M. said...

Nic, you can choose to be optimistic about it, but despite what might be happening in Brooklyn, it has only gained one bookstore since 2000, according to the New York Times. Manhattan has gone down 30% during that time period from 150 to 106. And the trend is likely to continue.

Michael Diamond said...

Barnes and Nobles is going out of business because they can't compete with Amazon. I think that bodes well for small bookstores. Maybe we just need to wait.

nic said...

Renee M., I live in Brooklyn and I work for a major publisher. I'm well aware of the state of bookstores and quoting the NYTimes (which is always behind in terms of trends) means absolutely nothing to me.

John K said...

I will mourn this bookstore, for many reasons, not the least of which is that like St. Mark's Bookshop it was one of the first to carry my first book and almost every anthology my work has appeared in. It also had British editions of US books, making it one of the rare bookshops in the area where you could find these.

The staff was great and I made a good, lasting friend of one of the writers who worked there in the 1990s. The staff also knows books--or did--unlike the robotic algorithms of corporate behemoth Amazon, which does not have the best record on decent treatment of its warehouse workers.

But who needs bookstores? Who needs mom-and-pop shops? Who needs real entrepreneurialism when we can have global and national chains chains chains chains and massive corporate payouts for top execs?

What Manhattan badly needs is more high-end children's clothing stores, more artisanal Japanese pancake shops, more fro-yo outlets, more closet-sized superconfectionaries, more TDF bank branches, more elite bars, boîtes and restaurants with no signs on them, more corporate chains that provide suburban comfort in the heart of the naked (not really!) city!

The suburban mall is dead, long live the suburban mall-brough-back-from-the-dead in the city!

Whatever billionaires want, give it to them! Everybody else, too damned bad!

Renée M. said...

Nic, I don't care who you are. I am a 56 year old native New Yorker with strong literary connections in my family. I could drop names that would make your head spin.

I remember when you couldn't swing a dead cat in Manhattan (especially Greenwich Village) without stumbling into a bookstore. I find it difficult to find any reason to be happy about Brooklyn given what I am seeing happening in Manhattan. I remember a ton of bookstores I knew all of my life that have gone out of business in only the last 10 - 12 years. Those places meant a lot to a lot of people. They weren't just stores you could easily replace with another somewhere else. They were about the memories, the neighborhood, the people, the atmosphere of New York that is being destroyed. I can't console myself about trendy Brooklyn when the borough I knew and loved the most is being taken over and turned into a strip mall. The corporate interests won't be satisfied until every indie. bookstore is forced out of Manhattan with condos., megamalls and yogurt shops taking their place.

nic said...

Renee, who you know hasn't stopped the corporatization of Manhattan and it's of no concern in this conversation (I'm sure you're just so fabulous, btw). I'm well aware of what's been lost but I'm more interested in keeping perspective on the actual state of books. I'm sorry you are bitter about Brooklyn, and probably Queens, but it's where the real New York survives and is thriving. It's time to accept the change because it's not going back.

Renée M. said...

Nic, the fact that you "work for a major publisher" is of no concern to this conversation either, but since you first brought up who you are like it matters, I reciprocated. And with all due respect, this blog exists to lament the loss of city landmarks that many people had a long history with, and the loss of which they feel detracts from a great city's character. I don't think this is the right place to dismiss those lamentations as insignificant for any reason. I find it ironic given the title of this blog that you would call someone who posts here "bitter" about the changes, LOL. Well, yeah, maybe we are, but you got a problem with that?

If what I've posted here makes me "unable to face the change", fine, I'll cop to that. When your neighborhood is demolished and turned into something much less unique and inspiring by big corporate interests, it's like losing a loved one. You never really get over it. And should you? Not if you have a human heart beating in your chest.

I have seen many posts here from people who don't like what's happening in the boroughs either. I have friends who had to move out of their apartment in Park Slope last year to make way for yet another condo. for trust fund babies from the suburbs, which will likely eventually be followed by the attendant chain stores and shopping malls. I personally think you are mistaken if you think those neighborhoods are completely immune from the takeover. As rents and real estate values continue to rise, without intervention many neighborhoods in the boroughs will also eventually be out of reach to the average indie. bookseller.

Anonymous said...

As a former long time employee of Shakespeare & Co. I can only say that this closure is a long time coming and well deserved.

Anonymous said...

I love books and book stores and own a Kindle. The assumption that a piece of cold, not very user friendly technology has single-handedly beat down book shops is just inaccurate. I still purchase books, mostly art books or other research material. And use the Kindle to read writers who only publish online and are available in pdf for purchase. I actually never purchased books for casual reading before, much preferring to go to the library. NY rent is becoming increasingly absurd, as is evident by my current living conditions. I am extremely sad when books stores close, but, sadly, I could never buy enough books to sustain the store.