Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Biography Bookshop

They're not vanishing, just moving further east on Bleecker--all the way to Cornelia Street. Their new place at 266 Bleecker, across from the still-vacant Zito's Bakery, is set to open sometime this week. It's shaping up quick, with walls of bookshelves already half-filled and French doors that will open onto the street.

the new place, "bookbook"

Though I'm glad they managed to survive, I'll miss them from Bleecker's western end. There's one day of the week when my travels take me by Biography, and I always stop to browse and often buy among their open-air tables of great books at incredibly low prices.

Luckily, they're not leaving this spot until January, and the two shops will co-exist until then.

Rumors about their move began a year ago, when Kate/Jack Spade announced a takeover of their neighbor's spot. In June, the bookshop confirmed the rumor with signs in the window, posted here.

Biography has occupied this prime corner for nearly 25 years. Since they moved in, their end of Bleecker has gone from warm and neighborly to cool, glassy Rodeo Drive East, packed with multiple copies of Marc Jacobs stores and other high-end chains. In fact, it's Jacobs who will be taking their place next year, right across from the Magnolia Bakery.

Prominently advertised sales of the Sex & the City book helped attract hordes of cupcake munchers into the store--whether they spent any money is a question.

Sex & the City tourists browse between cupcakes & dildos

For awhile, there was hope Biography would stay. In February, the owner told New York, "I talked to our landlord a couple of weeks ago and I said we needed to extend our lease and he didn’t really say no... we both assumed that I wouldn’t be able to afford what Ralph Lauren is affording. Or maybe even they’re not affording it."

But the ubiquitous Marc Jacobs is affording it. Whatever the rent is, it's high. Wrote The Observer, "the new tenants at the former Biography Bookshop can look forward to paying eight times the lease owners Chuck and Carolyn Epstein signed ten years ago," on a street where some retailers are paying $80,000 per month.

Without Biography, there will be no reason left for me to walk down this end of Bleecker--and I am not alone in that sentiment. As one employee told The Observer, "The locals have no reason to walk down this street anymore, I mean, who wants a thousand dollar purse?” (A customer added accurately, "The neighborhood will be a retail wasteland hellhole without them.")

The new location will be bigger and better organized, with an expanded selection. I'd like to say I'll visit all the time, but I rarely pass through that end of Bleecker. My weekly walk--and my bookshelves--will be less alive without them. I'll have to find another path.


Bowery Boogie said...

i'm glad biography will be staying in the 'hood. screw the marc jacobs mall.

Mykola Dementiuk said...

Ann Bannon immortalized Cornelia Street by re-naming it Cordelia Street. Plays a part in many of her lesbian novels from the 50s "I Am A Woman", "Woman in the Shadows" etc.

JamesChanceOfficial said...

Its nice to hear they're not closing. It's one of those rare shops where I'd usually find something & spend some money in even if I wasn't really looking. And it was always a pleasure to come across on that side of town.

L'Emmerdeur said...

$80,000 a month? There's only one way a store can afford that kind of nut: they are dealing drugs out the back.

Are you ready for the next leg down? It'll make the first one look like amateur hour!

Unknown said...

Those yunnies are disgusting?

I hope one of them accidentally text messages herself right into the path of a speeding taxi cab.

EV Grieve said...

I'm actually amazed that they could survive at all in that neighborhood.

And did the owners need to put up "no cupcakes" signs in the windows...?

Ken Mac said...

am so excited that they moving closer to my neck of Bleecker.

Unknown said...

wow, it's hard to believe the bookshop has been there that long. seems like about a dozen years to me

why, oh why is the former Zito's still vacant after all this time?

Jeremiah Moss said...

lucky you, ken!

Sherman Clarke said...

I visited Biography many times before I moved to NYC in 1995, especially when my friend lived on West 11th. I've moved out of NYC now but am glad to know that Biography will still be around. Bookstoring is very slim in my upstate college town.