Monday, July 21, 2014

St. Mark's Bookshop: Open

This weekend, the new St. Mark's Bookshop opened for business on East 3rd Street between 1st and A. They opened for a few hours on Saturday, then went full-time yesterday, noon - 10pm. Traffic flowed steadily in and out of the shop, and people were buying books.

The new space is smaller than the one on Astor Place, yet roomier, with white undulating shelves that curve around the perimeter in "a continuous series of horizontal bands which allow the eye to glide around the space without visual friction." Book subjects are carved into the wood.

In the center of the shop is an assortment of stacked roll-away tables. The design is meant to better accommodate readings and other events. The rear part of the shop bends to the right into an alcove-like space.

You can take a look at the design here.

I will miss the old space, its many sections and its spaciousness, along with the vestibule filled with fascinating local announcements. I'll miss the big, enticing windows off Astor Place. But I look forward to St. Mark's new lease on life and their plans to hold more events.

It took a lot of work, from a lot of people, to get here.

Back in 2011, struggling to pay high rent, the bookstore's owners asked landlord Cooper Union for a break. Cooper Union was not "particularly sympathetic."

Over 44,000 people signed a petition urging Cooper to help keep the bookstore in place, much like other universities have done. No dice. Michael Moore visited the bookstore and gave a rallying cry, saying, "It's not asking for a free lunch. Oh, God forbid! It's just asking for some decency."

I organized a Buy a Book Weekend, then another, and many of you went and bought books.

In November, Cooper Union agreed to a deal, but it wasn't enough for the bookstore to survive on. By April 2012, St. Mark's was back on the ropes. I organized a cash mob, and again many of you showed up to buy books. The bookstore ran a crowd-funding campaign, raising a pile of money for their move.

In March of this year we learned they'd be relocating to E. 3rd Street. And now they're there. Finally, we can relax--St. Mark's is settled in. Through hard work, patience, protest, and a lot of complaining, we got our bookstore back. St. Mark's still remains one of the longest surviving bookstores in the city.

Now--dump that miserable Kindle, cancel your Amazon account, and go buy some real books!

St. Mark's earlier plea for help, 1980s

Inside the old St. Mark's, 1984: New York Magazine


Anonymous said...

While I'm thrilled that the store is back, there is something about the new layout that doesn't sit well with me. It may be that the feeling of the white bookshelves with the black ceiling and track lighting give off this "showroom" effect, where the books appear to be on display as showcase pieces to be admired from afar, whereas the former bookstore had a much warmer, welcoming "library" feel to it, and you felt invited to touch and read the books. Otherwise I like the white bookshelves. But there is still something about that black ceiling that is very off-putting. I don't know, it could be me; I guess I have to visit more regularly for that feeling to go away...

Caleo said...

The photos of the original store bring back many memories. I'm glad they made it to the new space and let's hope they stay put for many years to come.
I will definitely stop by and buy.

Anonymous said...

They should have a digital download section, so people can buy electronic books on the spot with the store getting a cut of the purchase.

Anonymous said...

It's funny that you tell people to dump their Kindles and buy "real" books, but you do it on a blog, instead of printing it on "real" paper.

Jeremiah Moss said...

Correct. So someone who is not a Luddite is telling you that your Kindle is killing books, bookstores, and now taking money from authors. Maybe you should listen.

John K said...

I'm so glad to hear they're open. I met up at the old space, with a friend (former New Yorker) visiting from California about two weekends ago, and we watched it being dismantled, shelf by shelf. Later we walked to the new address, thinking it was already open, but it wasn't. So we peered in as the shelving was being installed. I plan to head over today, check the new space out, and buy some books.

The July 22, 2014 at 1:20 PM poster's comment isn't so farfetched, though. St. Mark's could follow Barnes & Noble's approach and include a digital download section, but also, and perhaps this is a future fundraising goal, raise money to purchase one of those Espresso Print on Demand machines that Jason Epstein has extensively championed. I believe McNally-Jackson has one, and they do help ensure that many books not in the bookstore, as well as self-published texts, etc. which exist online, can be printed and bound right there in the store.

But more than anything, let's buy codex books from St. Mark's and support their existence!

Anonymous said...

Anti-Kindle and/or e-readers does not mean being luddite. But that would be such the thinking of a technophilevangelist, it's only about 1's and 0's, black and white, us vs. them, either or.

Anonymous said...

What happens when they can't make the rent here? I don't get donating to keep a for profit business open. Aren't books anti environment? I know some city agencies are paperless as are lots of companies. Now I have to go to a fundraiser for a business with questionable practices. How many vagrants can I ignore on the way there?
But as long as certain shops stay open all is well. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Unless the staff has been replaced or "trained' in customer service as in, looks you in the face when you speak to them or tell you what the price is instead of pointing at the cash register I don't see this store hanging around very long.

Anonymous said...

Why mention Michael Moore. I don't need to hear from the 1% $50 million dollar man.