Monday, December 22, 2014

Complete Traveller Bookstore


New York is losing yet another bookshop, thanks to out-of-control rent.

After 36 years in business on the corner of 35th and Madison, the Complete Traveller book shop, and Antiquarian Books Too, is closing its doors December 31. The rent is too damn high--and getting higher.

I talked with manager Mike Durell, who said, "The lease is up and the landlord wants to jack up the rent," which is already "exorbitant." 

So the shop will be no more--except online, where you can find them at CT Rare Books.

Browsing through the Complete Traveller is a voyage in itself, as you move from city to city, and country to country along the shelves. One wall is dedicated to Baedeker guides, all bound in red. They also have Furniture, Fashion, Fiction, and a whole section on "Gone With the Wind."

Years ago, I found a beautiful old guide to New York City's zoos and aquariums. This time, in a "NYC Ephemera" binder, I found a treasure trove of documents from the Cream-O Specialty Sales Co. of Brooklyn, specializing in "quality peanut butter sandwiches and assorted cookies for the nation."

If you love old books about the city, check it out before they're gone. They've got some WPA guides, and a great looking "Street Guide to Brooklyn," from maybe the 30s or 40s. They also have a first edition of Fran Lebowitz's "Metropolitan Life."

Book browsing is such a physical experience. The sights and smells, the feel of the paper in your hands, all of it is important, enlivening, real. And we're losing it. More and more every day.

Something must be done.

Mr. Durell asks me to put out the word to anyone who's hiring. He needs a new job. He knows books, but he says he can do pretty much anything--he's also a freelance writer, an actor, and a licensed New York City tour guide. Check out his website here.

And, finally, the book shop's farewell note:

Dear Booklovers,

We will be closing our store at the end of the year! We have been at the corner of Madison Avenue and 35th Street for over 30 amazing years and we would like to thank you for your patronage! Throughout the years we made friends with so many customers from NYC and all around the world.

We hope you can visit us before we go, either online or in our store: It is not too late for Christmas shopping and delivery before Christmas is still guaranteed!

We are happy to report that our online store will remain open.

Happy Holidays!

Arnold Greenberg and Staff


Anonymous said...

Oh fer cryin' out loud!

I was just thinking last night how I needed to do some shopping for presents and I was trying to think of where to is so different ordering on line and shopping in person. I guess I've got to be stopping in there soon.

tm said...

I believe this store was shown on the NYC public access cable channel about surviving small businesses in New York. I suppose there will be no re-run of that episode.

Anonymous said...

I walked past there recently and remembered going there when I worked nearby about 30 years ago. I was just wondering how much longer it would be in business. UGH.

Jazz Guy said...

I wish they'd consider opening a storefront in New Jersey. We are the "Garden State" after all and there are some beautiful and sophisticated towns in North Jersey just outside NYC that a store like this would fit right into.

Besides, we are much nicer in New Jersey as well.

J said...

I'm really sorry to read this. I was always hoping that they could remain open for more years to come. I liked going there to browse their books and I've even bought a very old Chaucer book from there (as a treat for myself after I got my check). I'm gonna definitely stop by before they close.

Mitch said...

I was there yesterday. I liked the place, but I think that the store's problems went deeper than than just the rent. The book prices were generally quite high, even including ones - such as a 10 year old Doonesbury collection - that are not particularly rare. Most were upwards of $50. Obviously he needed to do this to pay his current rent. But maybe a smaller space with fewer, more special books would have been better. The shop's real audience was book collectors, not simple readers, and maybe a store like that doesn't need to be in a large store in midtown.

Anonymous said...

If you are so against advancement, you should put your blog in a book and mail it out monthly. People like you make the world dumber. I'm all for preservation but this blog is out of hand. And I'm sure you'll reject this post because you're just a whiny little person.

greaatdave 2009 said...

Complete sorrow as to the loss. While some of their treasures can be found on the internet;
it just won't be the same as entry to the cozy
literary cavern that was.