Friday, November 22, 2013

Report: St. Mark's Bookshop prepping fundraiser ahead of possible move to Avenue A

Rent-challenged St. Mark's Bookshop is finalizing a fundraiser ahead of a move to Avenue A, according to a report at Publishers Weekly.

There's a fundraiser (online and in the store) set for Dec. 5 that will feature signed first editions donated by a variety of authors, including Ann Carson, Lydia Davis and Paul Auster.

Per Publishers Weekly:

But that is only one piece of the store’s fundraising plans so that it can stay in the East Village in a space near Avenue A and Third Street. The president of Cooper Union has offered to help the bookstore by letting it use the school’s Great Hall for a fundraiser and to contact some of the schools’s donors on the store’s behalf. Those details are still being worked out.

Cooper Union will reportedly allow the store to leave its current home on Third Avenue with four years left on the lease.

Back to Publishers Weekly:

The new location would be about half of the store’s current size, or 1,300 sq. ft. Co-owner Bob Contant regards the store's downsizing as a good thing. “The print book business isn’t as robust as it used to be,” he points out. “Where we sold 25 books, now we sell five.”

As for the new new location "near Avenue A and Third Street" … let the speculation begin!

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

It would be so wonderful to have a bookstore over here on Avenue A! I hope they move over this way.

Anonymous said...

Better for that part of the neighborhood, and "west east village" still has a couple of print bookstores, thankfully.

Would it not be wonderful if we could turn back the clock to the NYC of yore, more bookstores, cafes, and pawn shops...

blue glass said...

so good of cooper union to let them out of the lease they've tried to get them out of so they can get an enormous amount of rent from another useless, probably chain, store.

BT said...

Given the coming Death Star tenants, a Dos Caminos would work well at the current bookstore space. Between AOL/Facebook at 770 Broadway plus more incoming at 51 Astor, it would do well.

snilva said...

Probably the old pharmacy space (they moved across the street)?

Anonymous said...

That space will be perfect for another Duane Reade. Crossing the street to the other one can be such an ordeal!

Morgan Tsvangirai said...

This story I heard on NPR recently was pretty interesting with regards to how France treats independent bookstores:

The city buys buildings in high-rent districts, and offers booksellers leases at an affordable price. Lynn Cohen-Solal, the deputy mayor in charge of independent commerce, says the city tries to keep a core of 300 independent bookstores.

"We have to keep our identity," she says, "because if we don't, all the shops are exactly the same in Paris, in London, in New York, in New Delhi, everywhere."


http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2013/10/25/240766585/little-libraires-that-could-french-law-keeps-amazon-at-bay

Shawn G. Chittle said...

Dear St. Marks Bookstore:

Move to Ave A and that "5 instead of 25 books" will bump up to 7, perhaps 9 on me alone!

Best,
Shawn G. Chittle
Ave A

P.S. Stock more tech books, they'll go fast.

Anonymous said...

There is a laundromat on the NW corner of 3rd/A that seems to be closing. Maybe there? Otherwise, I think the only other open retail is where Angelina Cafe was.

DrGecko said...

@anon9:46 - NW corner of 3rd and A is a bike shop, which is not the kind of place I do my laundry, although perhaps you've figured out a way.

As for the store, I do buy books there once in a while, but it would be nice if the staff could shed some of their cooler-than-thou attitude.

Wax said...

But isn't there a bookshop on Avenue A and 5th already?

Also, hopefully their staff will be trained to be much nicer and friendlier towards their clients. The snootiness of their staff is such a major turn off that I always end up going to Strand to get my books.

Glenn Belverio said...

Yes! We need a real book store on Ave A. That pretentious hipster book store btw 4th and 5th gets on my nerves, with their "curated" selection of beat classics.

THE NOTORIOUS L.I.B.E.R.A.T.I.O.N. said...

A bunch of us went to one of their cash mobs last year. Marty and I get to the counter with our books, a pretty significant pile between the two of us. He says to the guy at the register something like, " We're here for the cash mob Jeremiah posted about!" The spindly, non-communicative guy unenthusiastically responds, "oh" and rings us up without saying another word. No "cool" or "thanks" just "oh." I was in between jobs at the time but still wanted to help out the store and left there asking myself, " why did I just spend $80 on art books to help this dick keep his job?"

Dick aside, I'm glad they're doing more in-store events as that's what their customers have been asking for and the few I've gone to have been packed. So at least someone is listening. But please, keep the painfully introverted sales clerks away from the customers.

Anonymous said...

Paris has a Deputy Mayor of Independent Commerce?? Wouldn't that be nice. Although in NYC they would find some way of putting 7-11s in the independent category.

Anonymous said...

There is already another bookstore right there - well like a block up - Mast books, which is great; they have mostly used. So the more the merrier, maybe A will be a book destination.

Anonymous said...

I would be happy for this news, but the rude and condescending attitude makes me not care. I will go from buying 0 books there to still buying 0 books there.

- East Villager

Anonymous said...

The Paris approach is beautiful. Don't other American cities (Boston?) have a similar preference for unique local businesses? NYC really should take a similar approach.

- East Villager

nygrump said...

So long as they cash me out quickly they don't need to powder my fanny. They're bookstore clerks. With some of the shit they sell there, the clerks should be pointing at the customer and laughing! "Look everyone, this guy is buying the Pretty Long Penis photo book"

Anonymous said...

When the community is rallying repeatedly to help these people keep their jobs, the least they can do is say thank you.

Anonymous said...

I stopped going to this store due to the poor quality of the staff. Never a smile, a thank you or a hello. The owner(s) apparently are blind to this and have forgotten that there are alternatives very close by.

Anonymous said...

I guess you have to be a cute chick in order to get the clerks there to smile and be super friendly to you (personal experience; not boasting).

Anonymous said...

I've supported them through all their activities and have been going to this bookshop (in all it's locations for decades). However, the past year or so, the selection has dipped badly. I understand they can't afford much nowadays, but it's not even worth coming in for a browse. Barely anything on the shelves.

olympiasepiriot said...

@ 1:13...I don't judge the quality of staff anywhere (except maybe a strip club or bordello) based on them smiling and saying hello. IN a bookstore, I want them to know the stock, be able to order things for me, know where to find stuff, leave me alone if I don't yet know what I want, and let me pay for whatever efficiently and accurately when I go.

I didn't know lightbulb friendliness was a higher priority. I don't think it should be.

Anonymous said...

yes because bookstore clerks should always be upbeat and helpful when some moron walks in and says "im looking for a book.... i dont remember the title, author or publisher but its about this big and mostly blue...."

also if you only give charity for the sole purpose of wanting to hear "thank you" you are kind of a dick...

Anonymous said...

@DrGecko - Eyeroll. Sorry, I mean the NE corner, next to the entrance of UCB on 3rd Street.

THE NOTORIOUS L.I.B.E.R.A.T.I.O.N. said...

@anon 3:27 It's rediculous to suggest we were there to spend money to simply hear thank you. And you know that. We like the store, it's an important store and we want to keep it in the neighborhood. However a simple thank you would have been appreciated.

Anonymous said...

More wild speculation - maybe they meant the corner of Ave A and Fifth street? Plus, having a different book store that sells "new" books as opposed to "used" books would be nice.

Anonymous said...

I generally prefer to support positive local businesses - emphasis on the word "positive".

If the staff are rude and make frequenting the establishment an unpleasant experience, then I fail to see how it is a desirable addition to the community. It's impossible to have a community with those who do not even acknowledge others with even a modicum of courtesy and respect.

To support rudeness is to enable it. I'd rather buy my books at Amazon from a soulless robot than from a soulless human.


- East Villager

Anonymous said...

What is all this about rudeness? I've been going there for years and find that the staff just stays out of your way. That's exactly what I would expect. The few times I've needed help, they've helped without an attitude. Have they ever acted overly friendly? I guess not but I didn't expect it.



Anonymous said...

@olympiasepiriot, you've probably never been to st marks bookshop, have you?

i've never had a single positive experience with their staff. i once asked this girl with short curly brown hair to kindly help me locate a book, but she seemed so preoccupied seating like a princess behind her desk so she just impolitely told me that if they don't have the book on the shelves then it means they don't have it. the girl looked away and didn't even bother to ask me if i'd like to order a copy of the book i'm looking for.

i went to strand, asked a staff to help me locate the book i need and she went the extra mile to find it - no attitude, no drama.

hopefully the staff of st marks bookshop won't take their rudeness to the new location and just leave it at cooper square.

A little while ago I said...

I recommend everyone who commented on the rudeness to contact the store's manager directly with your anecdotes. Now. Before they move.

Describe the staff so he can figure out who you are referring to.

He can then decide if he will take his staff with him or not. If he chooses to keep them, that's his prerogative.

Otherwise, complaining about the staff here is passive aggressive. It is not anything that might influence CHANGE.

So "man up" and tell the manager! I sure as hell would if it had happened to me.

josegarcia said...

a bit surprised to hear so many negative comments about the staff/customer service. i've never found them to be overly friendly but they invariably have made good recommendations of stuff i hand't heard of yet. ditto love the idea of creating an independent book store are on avenue a. the one we have already, mast i think it's called, is awesome. a bit beyond my budget for the most part but they have stuff i don't think anyone else has so occasionally i break my budget for something really good.

Giovanni said...

Yes, I too much prefer the long, snaking, cattle ranch-style slaughterhouse lines at Barnes & Noble and the Strand where the employees yell "NEXT" in your ear at the top of their lungs not a millisecond after the cash register closes, before you can pocket your change or even pick up your purchases, and then you have no time to get out of the way as the next customer comes elbowing and barreling into you. Who needs a nice quiet local bookstore when the alternative is being treated like ball-bearing bouncing around inside a pachinko machine?

Anonymous said...

Those of you that think a staff that is indifferent at best is cool and is not important to a small (or big) retail business, have never worked or operated a retail business. I have years in retail and know being helpful and pleasant to customers improves business and brings return customers. If you have someone in your store with a little experience you can tell if they need or want assistance or to be left alone however this does not mean ignoring customers. Asking customer's about their purchase gives you valuable info on what books they like and what they would buy from you in the future. Telling someone that you will special order a book for them might earn you a customer for life. The people that run this place are at fault because the staff is a product of the owners approach to that business. Telling the owner(s) that the staff are zombies will not change anything and this store owner will lose this business unless they get clue really fast.

Anonymous said...

The attitude generally comes from the top in retail and part of running a retail business is providing good customer service. I shop here but I do have to admit that I don't feel a strong connection to the place like I do with other local businesses because I have never gotten much of a welcoming vibe or felt much of a community brewing here. Maybe that could change in the new space if the owners make an effort. I am not so turned off by it that I won't shop there.

Anonymous said...

We went to the SMB cash mobs, bought books, paid and left. Didn't expect Champagne and flowers. Didn't get them. Staff somewhat indifferent; similar to the Strand and several other local merchants. Some days happy, others sad. It seems to be the human condition rather than something to take personally. Is it really any different in other parts of the city, state, nation, world? Probably not. Sometimes smiling helps, and sometimes...not.

:-)

Buzz Gluebag said...

As someone who lives right near the potential new location, my guess is The Native Bean spot on Ave A between 3rd and 4th. It has been For Rent, for over a year and is about the 1300ft sized space described in the article at Publishers Weekly. The laundromat is much smaller; I doubt it will be there. Shame to lose that laundromat as it was very convenient; although let's not get into how the owner/manager used to sexually harass the cute women who worked there (I witnessed this twice.)

Anonymous said...

We'll see. That PW article is perhaps a little out of date. It's going to take a successful fund raiser and more than a bit of good luck for St. Mark's to survive.

Yup, it's always been a mildly surly place but the reason to celebrate St. Mark's--and to buy books there--has always been the books. It's had its ups and downs but the selection of books, magazines, and assorted consignment odds and ends, has always been better (for people who read books) than the chain stores. McNally-Jackson's current stock is close to St. Mark's but without the focus on downtown culture. It some ways, St. Mark's was more a bookstore for writers and academics and journalists than for everyday readers.

They have been an iffy business all along but don't confuse that with their cultural success over the years. It's hard to see if you have only used St. Mark's to buy stray vacation paperbacks but . . . careers have been made by the staff promoting certain books, by books landing in the window, and by people meeting there. The simple juxtaposition of books that never made to the chain stores being shelved next to those that did made it a place for people writing reviews, doing quick research for an article, and so on think twice.


Anonymous said...

I have purchased books from St. Marks Bookshop, and have enjoyed their selection in the past. And I have often found bargains on their sale table, which is a real treat (I teach at a college, and regularly send students their to purchase assigned books). They also have a great selection of periodicals (more than can be found at the news stands like Gem Spa and others...). More bookstores not less, would be a great thing for the East Village and Manhattan.

But ultimately it will be that the downfall of St. Marks Books was because it was poorly managed. That is why they are--and have often been--in trouble. The owners signed their current lease, which contained escalations landing them at paying upwards of $20k per month, and it was their responsibility to be aware of the terms. In what universe can any business other than luxury goods, sustain overhead like that? And who in their right mind in the independent bookstore business thought they could ever pull that off?

Owning and operating a bookshop is very hard work, and most people know that the landscape has drastically changed. McNally Jackson on Prince Street is a good example of how a bookshop can thrive. Yes, they have coffee and internet, but this draws people in to create an active environment. More importantly, they have a great selection from both mainstream and independent publishers, not to mention their constantly busy calendar of events (I attended a poetry reading there last week). Their shop is but one example of how to stay relevant. Mast, the bookstore on Avenue A that stocks used and new art, poetry and literature books, is another example. Their stock is constantly changing, which makes it interesting to go in there every time.

St. Marks Bookshop's landlords Cooper Union--not at all such good citizens these days--are, in this case, not to blame. (The rent break they cut to St. Marks Bookshop recently amounts to about a semester's pay for one of their adjunct instructors). While they are pretty poor managers of that great college, in principle, the rents they bring in should go to funding students' educations and instructors salaries.

St. Marks Bookshop is a for profit business, and while there is real cultural import to bookshops and other locally owned businesses, St. Marks Bookshop is not a charity.

Anonymous said...

i wonder how a bookstore would do in that location? (either the old Angelica or next to UCB). Mast, the used mostly art book store on A, is mostly empty during the daytimes and I assume survives on their specialty catalog and perhaps internet sales. To a large extent we are in a bedroom community. The old location was good in that lots of traffic all the time, and its REALLY too bad St Marks couldn't have stuck around to cash in, and be a resource for, the Twitters moving into the death star across the street.

The $20k rent killed them. And it has become a death spiral because there is less reason to go as their shelves have emptied.

Yup, NY can give BILLIONS to developers to make profit-gushing buildings, but we can't give a drop of that to this important element of the cultural infrastucture that has made this city what it is.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the two posts above. The owners were crazy to sign a lease on a 20k rent. That's just nuts. Frankly, they're not that great a bookshop (that same Vice Magazine book has been on their front table for years now), they're simply the last one left, in what used to be a great neighborhood. Don't get me wrong, I love the East Village, but there are some real charities and causes to support, such as homelessness and feeding the poor in NYC. I just don't think that the St. Mark's Bookstore is all that worthy a charitable cause.

Anonymous said...

"... simply the last one left…"

They were a great bookstore and they still are one of the best in town. Yes, everyone around them went out of business but more than a few similar stores came and went . . . and St. Mark's thrived. Yes, I'd love a dozen similar stores, iffy management be damned.

Anonymous said...

Did St. Mark's ever wonder why McNally Jackson doesn't have this problem?