Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Still Empty

It's depressing to walk home to the East Village and see the old St. Mark's Bookshop space still empty after they were forced to move by a rent hike. I try not to walk by there anymore.



With the space vacant for over a year, landlord Cooper Union is contributing to the high-rent blight of the neighborhood, presumably while they wait for a Chipotle or Starbucks to take the spot. As I've said before, there ought to be a law.

You may recall that many of us tried to keep the bookshop here--with tens of thousands of petition signatures, protests, letters to Cooper Union, visits from Michael Moore, and book-buying weekends. But without protections like the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, there really is no hope for any mom and pop. Now the bookshop is on E. 3rd, where the foot traffic is low and business is down. Shelves are bare. They're looking for investors to help keep them going.

But this is what typically happens when a long-time small business is forced to move, especially from a prime spot. They struggle in their new location. They often don't make it.

#SaveNYC.


17 comments:

Scout said...

And then there are some of us who miss when the St. Mark's Bookshop was actually ON St. Mark's Place, and never really liked this shiny new place that they were in.

Keith W said...

Walked down 8th Street the other day to meet a friend. I sweat half the street between Broadway and 6th Ave is boarded up. That former B&N on the corner, still vacant. The former restaurant Gobo, still vacant. Even continuing along on 10th the number of shuttered spaces that have been sitting there empty for a year or more is increasingly staggering.

Quentin Jersey said...

We need an "empty storefront" law
Leases should automatically go month to month... until a new lease is signed by whoever

Edward Sabatine said...

What is probably needed first is an investigation of the whole buy buildings -throw out the existing tenants - keep them empty thing. No one has come up with a good explanation for this, which is starting to become really noticeable. I'll bet there is a story behind it.

James said...

Not being a neighborhood resident, I just assumed that the St. Marks Bookshop closed years ago. I'm shocked to hear they still live, in a manner of speaking. Perhaps a little noise needs to be made about shops which are still adored for any reason, whether a rent-rate storm is in their vicinity or not. Similarly, Coliseum Books left their beloved 57th & Broadway corner and tried to make a go in the middle of East 42nd Street, across from Bryant Park. Without the habit of going to the original store, pedestrians didn't find a reason to go in, and it faded from sight. Oddly enough, my last purchase there was a signed book by Susan Sontag - "Regarding the Pain of Others". Thanks for the notice.

Tal Hartsfeld said...

"They often don't make it."
I think that's part of the "plan".
There seems to be some sort of "social engineering" scheme going on. The purpose of it? I'm not sure. Certainly nothing that stands to benefit the greater American society.

Caleo said...

Agree with Scout. I remember the original location on St. Marks and it was cozier and just superior to the newer space on 3rd ave.
The space on 3rd avenue always seemed too big and sterile, definitely underutilized. That being said I still purchased countless books there, up until the very end. I have yet to visit the new location, and considering their financial problems, I can't imagine they will last long unless they get some investors.
Frankly, the guys running it seem to have lost any real interest in keeping it alive, what with multiple crowdfunding appeals , and then wasting money and time using an architect. Just put up some goddamned shelves and fill them with books, floor to ceiling, like the original place. Mast books is near the new space and doing fine. The guys at St. Marks seem to be a bit out of touch at this point, but I still mourn the loss of a crucial bookstore and Cooper Union should be ashamed for shutting them out.

Scuba Diva said...

Scout said...

And then there are some of us who miss when the St. Mark's Bookshop was actually ON St. Mark's Place, and never really liked this shiny new place that they were in.

Are you talking about 12 St. Mark's, or their original home at 13 St. Mark's?

Donnie Moder said...

1. The bookstore store was.unappealing in that modern building and location. Just my personal opinion. Walked by it for maybe 20 years, went inside maybe 4.times. (Amazon kills)
2. Deathstar ruined St. Marks and Cooper Square.
3. Walkup building owners are renovating the units and turning them into way overpriced college student shares. They ruin the character and livability of the neighborhood and buildings on 34th St on downtown. High enrollment at NYU and other colleges have changed downtown neighbs for the worse.
4. The battle of the small stores is a difficult problem. You have already lost much of the battle. Have you looked around? The issue is that national chains were afraid of NYC for decades, now they are not. You cannot turn that around.

John M said...

I, too, miss the old St. Mark's when it was actually on St. Mark's. But for years now, it's been clear that the guys running the store have no idea of how to run a store. Sometimes businesses succumb to changes in society, changes in real estate, and changes in the demands the first two make on the ability of someone to run a store, period. These guys didn't respond to the first, were hamstrung like many by the second, and just plain didn't have the business chops for the third.

I miss the old store, but once they moved, the experience of going there just wasn't that great. And it kept deteriorating. I support the small business bill, but I still think any business has to have competent management, and this store didn't, from everything I've seen and read. Too bad.

Scout said...

Scuba Diva said...

Are you talking about 12 St. Mark's, or their original home at 13 St. Mark's?

I'm in love. The first location had the most charm, small though it was. I think it was 1987 or 88 when it moved across the street and lost a bit of character. Anyway, that was the time when the East Village rapidly went from having any real bohemian quality to being a Disney version of itself.

The move a few years later to that NYU-bookstore style spot, although it gave them more space, sort of did them in for me. I still visited occasionally, but nowhere near what I did in the early 80s at 13 St. Mark's.

This exchange really illustrates the strange aspect of this entire blog - Jeremiah seems to think that NYC had it's heyday in the 90s, when he discovered it. I feel it was at its best in the 70s, when I discovered it. What few people realize is that everyone feels that NYC is at its heyday when THEY personally discover it. There are youngsters arriving today who think that NYC is at its best ever right NOW.

Scout said...

At http://thevillager.com/2014/11/20/st-marks-bookshop-is-starting-another-chapter-at-new-e-third-st-home/, you can read a good article about the history of the store.

I particularly love this quote, about quality of life in the late 70s in NYC: “However, you could work a minimum-wage job, which was about $2.50 an hour. You could still have your own apartment,” explained Contant, whose place back then cost $63 a month. “And you could still eat out and you could have a drink at the bar and you could date — go to the movies, which were like 75 cents.”

That's the dead NYC that I miss. Your choices now are 1) be subsidized by Mom & Dad, 2) work 40+ hours a week in a mainstream job, or 3) leave. There is no real Bohemia here.

Jim Holt said...

Yes, the original location at 13 St. Marks Place was the most agreeable--upstairs for novels, as I recall, and below street level for philosophy etc. But despite the somewhat slick decor at the final location, the inventory was terrific. Maybe a little too much critical theory for my taste, but an enormous literature and poetry selection. Also, an interesting "curated" (dread word!) display of new books near the front, rather like a neighborhood Paris bookstore. And you could get the TLS, the NYR, and the LRB on that square island toward the front, and lots of literary quarterlies toward the back. The place attracted an interesting clientele too.

I haven't been to the new location, I'm sorry to say, simply because I find the whole East Village so unpleasant these days. For new books, I go to Three Lives; for used books, I love browsing at Mercer Books, with all its lovely old-fashioned seediness. (Tom Stoppard has been known to drop in at Mercer.)

laura rubin said...

paid $60 usd per month, 5 flights up. corner 2nd ave & east 5th. no closets, curved floor painted over. nice marble entrance way. i had a room mate for a while, so its was $30 usd! we shared the amoire which was in a minisule 8x6 space. there was a deep old bathtub w/legs a toilet w/a pullchain. new kitchen appliances. view of airshft & the other side of gas tanks. my mothers friend owned that building. that was 1968-70. there were great boutiques in the area. i had a good time. then i took a teeny studio on chichi UES, near bloomies- 12x12 sq feet plus entry way. $120 per month. 1970-1971. you get the picture. my fab apt was a huge one bedroom in a beautiful pre war UWS, oak floors, high ceilings, casment windows, eat in kirchen. $300 per month 1971-1973. all the areas had mostly small businesses, many diners, laundries.

Donnie Moder said...

Work 40+ hours. What a concept. If you want bohemia, find a rural college town.

me said...

same with milady on prince street, closed january 2014 and still empty.

while i love the idea of st. mark's books, i really don't feel much attraction to the new location. i imagine they are doing what they need to do in today's market, but the stock seems much more mainstream overall with a LOT less space for art books and criticism/theory. probably not a great demand for that stuff, but i can find SMB's current stock at a lot of other book stores. that never used to be the case.

Scout said...

Donnie Moder said "If you want bohemia, find a rural college town."

Which shows a surprisingly vast ignorance of the artistic history of New York City (and America and the world). If NYC had not been a bastion of bohemian artistic life, we would never have had Eugene O'Neill, Edna St. Vincent Millay, the Public Theater, Jackson Pollock, and the list goes on for ever.

Of course, if you don't CARE about art, then it doesn't matter if you know about bohemianism or not.