Thursday, September 4, 2014

Shakespeare & Co.

This is the final hour for Shakespeare & Co. Book Sellers on Broadway. Literally. They close one hour from now, at 6:30, forever.

Everything is 50% off. The store is filled with just-returned NYU students, walking around in a daze, muttering "This sucks." No one told them.

A sign in the window reads, "It is with heavy hearts we leave 716 Broadway." The rent was too damn high, of course, in a city explicitly for "hipsters and tourists."

Half the store has already been dismantled. It's painful to see a bookstore with its shelves ripped out.

Tables and shelves are selling to whoever wants them. One woman bought the neon Shakespeare sign from the window for $500. What will she do with it? "I don't know," said the saleswoman. "Maybe open a bookstore? She might end up disappointed."

Shakespeare & Co. Closing
...and Hipsters & Tourists


Anonymous said...

It's really reaching post-traumatic levels.

I see a sign on a door of a beloved place and even before reading it, I'm getting symptoms.

This is as much NYU's fault as any other b/c their massive buildout, with their dorm needs, influx of sport's bars for student drunks, and franchise shopping has destroyed the Village.

Anonymous said...

The only comfort I feel these days from these stories is that I gave up on Manhattan over 4 years ago when I moved to Brooklyn and sadly I'm slowly giving up on Brooklyn as I see it converted into a suburban mall. This allows me to finally leave this city with my memories still intact, hopefully never to return to such a sad, sterile, overpriced mall.

Anonymous said...


I loved this store...bought so many books from here.

Starting in the mid-90s when attending NYU...this place always stood out and remember back then you had a lot more bookstores downtown. Just a few:

Posman's (closed)
B&N on 6th Ave (closed)
B&N on Astor Place (closed)
B&N on 5th Ave (the original)

Shakespeare had a very "personal" touch...I loved their tables, with staff picks and new releases, and always a great film section. The place had character, you can tell it was owned and staffed by people who LOVED BOOKS.

Downstairs had a small used book section, and in the back they dealt with orders and academic books (for the univ).

It wasn't big, but it felt big because they had a great selection...not "the usual". They went out of their way to keep interesting things in stock and could always get you anything you wanted.

For a while they had a bag check in the front (which got annoying), but they did away with that probably to reduce costs.

Loved picking up copies of VICE in the front, where they carried free papers.

This is sad for everyone...while it's "easier" to GET books, there is NOTHING in the world like going into a bookstore and scanning and browsing shelves, I don't care what anyone says. There is a MUCH higher probability you will "discover" something you didn't come for than if you order online.

A sad day. Great memories of this place.

Primary Games Anywho said...

Lets face it, books are not vanishing. This is the computer age. Books are just going digital. However if hardbound books were selling for five hundred dollars there'd be book stores on every corner!

Anonymous said...

Doesn't NYC know that if you take the essence of NYC out of NYC, people won't want to go there anymore?
Tourists don't want chain stores and the same bland crap they have in their own towns around the world.
This is heartbreaking, and heralds a massive shift in how the world sees you. I know you hate tourists, but geez, why both coming to NYC when there is no regional culture left?

Ed said...

Anonymous 9:41, the bizarre thing is that New York is more packed with tourists than ever, despite being expensive even to visit, more crowded than I have remembered it, and there really not being much to see and to experience.

Of course, there are the museums, but that argues for a single three day visit (to hold down costs), staying as close to Central Park as possible, and not bothering with downtown, but that is not what people are doing.

Lots of foreign tourists come to New York to shop, with the same variety of (Chinese made) goods available here as in developed countries, but at lower prices.

Caleo said...

Anon.9:41- I disagree that tourists don't want to shop at the same chain stores they have at home. American tourists most definitely do exactly that. Americans from middle America never came to New York to really engage with the city as New Yorkers did. New York was too intimidating and overwhelming.
In my experience, European and Asian tourists made/make a real attempt to explore the whole city, go off the beaten track. It's rare that Americans will do that. Americans want familiarity and sameness, and developers and the city administration has given them that in spades. And now that the city has been scrubbed and sanitized, suburban Americans can move here and feel right at home... suburbia. Just a lot more expensive.

Anonymous said...

As long as The Strand stays opened, then I'm happy. I never really liked Shakespeare and Co, mainly because of the fact that the one time I stopped to look for a book, the lady behind the desk gave me attitude the entire time because I disturbed her.

Anonymous said...

As a Canadian tourist who has visited several times; I go out of my way to avoid chains, mall-culture type places, bougie-hipster crap, etc. It's revolting. The city I live in is going through the same developer-funded soul crushing transformation. It's just class war at this point; people with access to capital vs. those who do not.
But even as a casual visiter it's sad to see the tide is turning. Tourism/myself is most likely part of the problem though..

John K said...

Very saddening to see Shakespeare & Co. go. As Anonymous at 9:45 AM points out so many indy bookstores have vanished, and while I'm glad the Strand is still around, when there were more bookstores there were more book options. I even remember the old University Place Bookstore that had those dusty shelves full of obscure books of poetry, philosophy, etc. And this was in the 1980s and 1990s; 10 years before there were double the number of indy bookstores. Those were the days!

Now, it's increasingly suburban/elite monopolistic chains and monoculture that arrives with hypergentrification. We're losing a sense of what a small business can offer, unless of course it's for the super-rich, and these changes are endangering New York's longstanding economic, social and cultural ecology. But it's clear that many people, including New Yorkers themselves, really do appear to like things this way. It's not just the tourists. Maybe they don't know any better, perhaps they don't care.

A giant suburban version of Portland (or increasingly Peoria) does not make for an interesting New York, though.