Friday, June 24, 2011

Tough economic times: Enduring a 'perfect storm' at the St. Mark's Bookshop

Jeremiah recently posted this rather ominous photo from outside the St. Mark's Bookshop...

[JVNY]

An article in The Villager this week confirms that the situation is bleak at the bookshop.

The latest local victim in an ongoing national trend afflicting independent booksellers, St. Mark’s Bookshop has considerably downsized its staff due to rising costs and declining sales.

The current economic downturn coupled with steep overhead costs and dwindling sales finally forced the management of St. Mark’s Bookshop, on Third Ave. near E. Ninth St., to lay off all of the shop’s part-time staff and to reduce the hours of full-timers. The downsizing occurred last October, but the business continues to struggle because of the ongoing economic stresses.

David Russo, a manager at the bookstore, said St. Mark’s is enduring a “perfect storm.”

According to Russo, St. Mark’s is in no danger of shuttering in the short term, but the store’s situation is still dire.

“I wouldn’t say it’s merely a little tight, but I wouldn’t say we’re planning on closing the store,” he said. “That’s not the plan right now, but that is a possibility, I would have to say.

With the addition of the fancy new 51 Astor Place tower across the street, things can only get worse. As the article points out, "the bookstore occupies valuable real estate and staff members said the landlords are unwilling to lower the rent for the space."

Mostly, when we deal with them, we’re told that they could get a lot more for the space,” Russo told the paper.

34 comments:

Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

Bummer. St Marks Bookshop has my '100 Whores" and now I know why it's not selling. The book looks at the whores that thronged the area around 14th-12th Street just a few blocks away from St Marks Place.

Jeremiah Moss said...

losing this bookstore is not an option. it's one of the last things i value about living in this otherwise spiritually bankrupt neighborhood.

Jeremiah Moss said...

who is their landlord?

Anonymous said...

C'mon readers, post this on your fb & twitter feeds. We NEED this book shop.

Tom said...

@Jeremiah - NYU is the owner of the property.

Anonymous said...

I always thought this place did a good business. NYU is right there with so many student bodies. Do students not buy books anymore? (Other than textbooks.) I'd have killed for a bookstore this good right next door to my shitty college.

Jeremiah Moss said...

NYU. of course. we need to take action on this one. NYU is one of the biggest owners of real estate in the city. they've come under fire for destroying the cultural fabric of the East Village. this institution of learning can't give a break to a one of our last surviving bookshops?

so what has worked with NYU before?

Jeremiah Moss said...

if we can save Met Foods from NYU, we can save this important bookshop:

http://vanishingnewyork.blogspot.com/2008/04/met-foods-vs-nyu.html

EV Grieve said...

@Jeremiah

Met Foods in 2008. Remember when NYU wanted to boot the Met? NYU apparently doesn't like residents having a low-cost food source.

Anonymous said...

Seems like tough times for brick and mortar book stores all around. Tough to compete with Amazon's selection and prices. You can even browse inside a lot of books there before buying. Then there is the kindle of course.

Marty Wombacher said...

@Anonymous 11:33 AM: The one thing Amazon will never have is a sense of local community and you will never meet anyone at Amazon. There won't be local fanzines or books you can't find anywhere else like you can at St. Marks Bookshop. And yes, there is the Kindle, will someone please shove it up NYU's ass?

Lux Living said...

Jeremiah, Grieve, and others with blogs, what if we gave them free ads on our sites? That may help them.

Richard D James said...

Time for everyone to put their money where their mouth is.

Everyone complains that they hate all the bars and restaurants, banks and Starbucks, and that they want more diverse retail - well, here is your chance to show how much you care.

If you truly care, go buy a book at the book store once a week, or even once a month. Maybe more, maybe buy books as gifts and only shop here.

The reality is, as much as everyone complains, it's much easier to just shop on Amazon and complain on the internet. I will be sad to see St. Mark's Bookshop close, but not surprised.

Looking forward to seeing everyone who didn't help here complain and be outraged in the comments about the next bar or restaurant opening in the E. V.

Love always.

R. D. J.

SpragueD said...

Their landlord is Cooper Union. The building they are in is the Cooper Union dorm.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/edenpictures/4206193052/

EVGayBear said...

@Richard

Just got back from there with a few purchases.

Jeremiah Moss said...

is it Cooper Union or NYU?

Tom said...

@SpragueD - It might be a Cooper Union dorm, but the owner of the property is NYU. Here's the URL for the deed to the property:

http://a836-acris.nyc.gov/Scripts/DocSearch.dll/ViewImage?Doc_ID=FT_1370000078037

When I get back from moving my car, I'll research the land records some more.

Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

Please go in St Marks Bookshop and pick my "100 Whores," you'll be supporting a local writer who has written about the Lower East Side in his book "100 Whores."

http://www.100Whores.com

Thanks ;)

clr said...

Indie bookstores are actually flourishing in NYC - Look at Word in Greenpoint, Greenlight in Ft. Greene, which are brand new book stores which are going gangbusters. I love Word because I can tweet them as I'm walking home and pick up my book on the way home. I just did an event at greenlight. And yes,f rom time to time, I order a book from Amazon or B&N - but I also buy ebooks from AMZ, B&N and Google books.

The staff at Word told me once that buying even every third or fourth book at their store HELPS.

I work near St. Mark's Bookstore, I'll make an effort to add them to my rotation of indie bookstores I purchase from.

Goggla said...

This is such a great book store - I go there first to find what I want and they usually have everything no one else does, especially local authors. I need to buy some more books soon, so I'll be going there.

If there's a flyer or something with more info, I'll gladly post it on my website and around my home/work.

Tom said...

@SpragueD - As I said above, the building may be a Cooper Union dorm, but the owner of the property is NYU.

I researched the land records some more, and confirmed that NYU is still the present owner. I don't know what arrangement NYU has with Cooper Union, but whatever it is, it's not on the land records.

Now, in theory, Cooper Union could be the landlord of Saint Marks Bookshop if Cooper Union master leased the entire property from NYU. But there is no such master lease on the land records. So, presumably NYU is the immediate landlord of Saint Marks Bookshop; and as the owner of the property, NYU is definitely the ultimate landlord.

AC said...

I love your guys's enthusiasm. I love this place too. Let's not forgot tho other places that need our support, too, such as Mast on A and East Village Books on St. Mark's.

Anonymous said...

I buy all my greeting cards at St Marks books. They have cool, NY-themed ones, Japanese woodblock designs, etc. Way cooler than the lame cards you find at Papyrus or the drugstore.

Tom said...

POSSIBLE CORRECTION: Cooper Union might be and probably is the owner.

When I go to the NYC online land records and type in the address for Saint Marks Bookshop (31 Third Avenue), I get the tax block and lot numbers of Block 465, Lot 1.

Then when I search the land records under Block 465, Lot 1, it shows NYU as the owner of the property.

BUT when I go to the NYC Tax Map, it shows Block 465, Lot 1 as the NYU graduate dorm across the street.

I think the NYC online records might be screwed up. If I had to guess, I think Cooper Union is the owner and landlord. Maybe someone should just ask the manager of Saint Marks Bookshop.

Tom said...

CORRECTION: Cooper Union is the owner/landlord. The NYC online land records incorrectly stated that 31 Third Avenue was Tax Block 465, Lot 1, which is owned by NYU. So I dug further and looked at the larger NYC Tax Map which shows that the Cooper Union Dorm and Saint Marks Bookshop property is Tax Block 464, Lot 6. And when I searched the NYC online land records under that tax block and lot, they show Cooper Union as the owner and landlord.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks Tom. Cooper is responsible for a lot of losses in the neighborhood.

St. Mark's also supports zines--they have a great selection--and they call attention to books that you will never find at the chains. we cannot lose this place.

it's time to take action.

Anonymous said...

Looks like places like UBUweb and other abusive sites are killing good bockstores. Why buy when you can get everything for free as a pdf?

Anonymous said...

Cooper Union is the landlord. There is some sympathy toward St. Mark's at Cooper and, well, yes, it would be worth reminding Cooper that the neighborhood appreciates St. Mark's. I know I do.

...Indie bookstores are actually flourishing in NYC...

Um, hmmmm, kinda, a little bit. It's true that a few new independents have opened but I'm not sure they are making enough to keep going. Most of them are run more or less as not-for-profits, with a surprising amount of volunteer labor, and owners with pockets. It's almost impossible to run a straightup bookstore and make a living.

EV Grieve said...

Thanks for all your research, Tom.

Anonymous said...

Please spread the word about this! It's too easy to take a neighborhood shop like this for granted, until it's gone....Support this great local bookstore!

- East Villager

Anonymous said...

This is the best bookstore ever! A sad day indeed if they ever close. Its the first sop for many of my out of town ex-new yorker friends. I always wondered by they moved from St. Marks to this location in the 1990's. I feel like it's smaller than when they were on St. Marks. Does anyone know?

blue glass said...

cooper union - nyu - there is very little difference. cooper union learned from nyu and they are about as "neighborhood conscious" as nyu.
just look at their third avenue disarchitectural building, and the monstrosity they are going to build on the city-owned land on st mark's place and third avenue.
they were going to allow that awful pajama bottom wreck on the land they own on astor place where a not much better chase bank building now exists.
as for met food - since nyu is probably the biggest employer in nyc there was not much help from our council member who held secret meetings wth nyu. it took many (i mean MANY) meetings with seniors in wheelchairs, on crutches and with walkers, (really!) protesting nyu's attempt to evict the met.
and it made no sense since nyu could have had a win win situation, generating great community support and rare positive press, if they had just said yes instead of dragging it out for what seemed like a year and - in the end - renewing met's lease (of course at much more money).
this at the time that nyu spent millions in building an nyu in dubai.
the met was the only supermarket on lower second avenue, with whole foods on houston street being quite expensive and not close enough for the seniors.
i must say it was a moving experience to see all the community members coming out to meting after meting in support of nyu. even former council member friedlander was there in support of the met.

visit sounds around said...

ok this will sound harsh but it's not meant to be.
I went to the store yesterday after reading this post, have always loved it there but haven't been for a while. I bought a book like i usually do and had a poor shopping experience like I usually do. Doesn't really bother me but in these competitive times other people do. I brought my girlfriend with me and she said the place was depressing, and I could see her point. If they want to survive they need to make some changes, and take those ' help us ' signs down they are awful.
So why not come up with a plan - get people to email the store with suggestions etc.

glamma said...

totally agree that lsoing this bookstore is not an option! all bullies like COOPER UNION are threatened by bad press, let's get this in the post, the times, gothamist.....
i swear to god i just can't take it anymore watching what is happening to our neighborhood! totally unique places you could NEVER EVER replace, shut down for F*CKING CHAIN STORES,,,,, oh the humanity (or rather, LACK THEREOF?.)