Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Report: Last stand for St. Mark's Bookshop



The financial struggles continue for St. Mark's Bookshop.

DNAinfo is reporting this evening that the store "might not make it into the new year unless it raises $150,000 in the next month," based on a crowdfunding campaign launched yesterday afternoon.

The store, now in its 38th year (spread over several locations), opened in its new home at 136 E. Third St. just west of Avenue A on July 19, 2014, after well-documented financial struggles with escalating rents and declining business at its previous home on Third Avenue.

Despite lower rents in the new location, the bookshop is still in arrears. Here's part of a letter that Bookshop co-owner Bob Contant shared with the crowdfunding campaign:

Unfortunately, we were quite undercapitalized for the move and the bookshop has not recovered. Cost overruns left us with little money to stock the store with books...

In an interview with Lisha Arino at DNAinfo, Contant said, "We’ve been going along for the past year just trying to replace the key books in the store and yet we’re doing less and less business because the inventory is depleting ... This is our last stand."

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

Is this the new home for the St. Mark's Bookshop?

Report: St. Mark's Bookshop signs lease for East 3rd Street space

Renovations at the future St. Mark's Bookshop on East 3rd Street

St. Mark's Bookshop seeking buyers with an ownership interest

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you've been around for decades and have reached the point where you need 150K to stay open you're not cut out to run a business (anymore.) You had a nice, long run - hang it up.

Anonymous said...

Meh.

Going to the community for tens and or hundreds of thousands of dollars on an annual basis does not a sensible, sustainable business model make.

Not when you can go to Strand.

#donorfatigue

Anonymous said...

They crowdfunded to STAY open on St Marks Place. THEN they are crowdfunded a MOVE to 3rd st. Now they are crowdfunding to STAY on 3rd street?
These people are gross.

Anonymous said...

I went into the bookstore on 3rd Street once and the sales person did not look up from their book once.

Anonymous said...

F the strand. not the bookstore a community should support.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if they treated their customers with some courtesy, or even acknowledge their existence, I might have shopped there.

- East Villager

DrGecko said...

I went in there twice in the last few months to get books that had been, but no longer were, in their windows. I was going to pay full retail price to support a local bookstore. Both times it took the clerks something like 5 minutes fumbling with the computer to tell me that the book wasn't in stock. They didn't offer to order it, either, and I thanked them and left.

Many of the store's problems are not new.

Anonymous said...

150k? Shameful. What a disgrace. The only people getting my cash are the folks at the Bowery Mission. F these guys.

Anonymous said...

They should look into Jersey City. Cheaper rents/cool vibe/ only 1 book store...

Anonymous said...

What's your beef with the Strand? Family owned business that's been here for generations. They own the building, certainly could have chosen to sell out for big bucks. Instead, they're committed to staying here.

It's not the Strand it used to be, but the publishing and book selling business has changed since Amazon, Borders and B&N have pushed out indies. If they need to be what they are now in order to survive, at least they have found a formula that works.

They bring in authors, the employees know their stock and have a deep knowledge of their books and subjects - at least on the second and third floors.

Anonymous said...

It's still a good bookstore, but 3rd Street by Avenue A is off the beaten path, so it gets less walk-in customers, the principal reason for its loss of revenue. They should have opened someplace more easily accessible.

Anonymous said...

I think it is time to throw in the towel. They did have a nice, long run indeed. But when reality sets in, which isn't pretty some of the time, things have a way of materializing. In today's market, 150k is a lot of dough to ask for in a campaign. F it and move on.

Anonymous said...

It's that time of the month again isn't it?

nygrump said...

Young people don't seem to read books, they like to play candy games on their electric phallus replacement. Books require individual thought and the ruling zeitgeist is against individuality. They need to incorporate legal recreational drugs in their business model in order to survive here. And MAze books over Ave A constantly amazes me and depletes my bank account..

Anonymous said...

They should stop trying to entice people to walk in and buy, and try selling online through Amazon. I recently bought a book from Amazon that was from a bookstore on Staten Island. It was win/win!

bayou said...

Curious to know why "F the Strand?" It is an NYC destination, a link to the City's past, the Basses are indeed committed to it and you can get hardcover books for the same price as digital downloads.

Though I'm sorry for the vanishing New York part of their story, I've never liked St. Marks - especially since the Strand was three blocks away.

Anonymous said...

I think they'd have more support/success with a "closing party" to help pay all the money they have in arrears, and then go out with some dignity.

blue glass said...

st marks is no longer the iconic store of the 60s - perhaps they lost their identity when they first moved their shop. i think they left their soul in the first shop.
i remember a buzzing store with knowledgeable and somewhat FRIENDLY staff with only a little bit of superior hostility. it was a social event to browse there. they would gladly order any book for you - even if it did not fit into their pretentious gestalt.
by the time they moved to the cooper union building they couldn't have cared less about the store or the customer. it was enough to just be the st marks bookstore and have erudite and obscure stock.
asking the public to help them stay in business (and move to 3rd avenue) ok.
then asking for help to move to 3rd street, well ok, for old time preservation's sake.
then asking for the third time for more to stay at 3rd street, plain arrogance and entitlement.
they have lived on their reputation and have done nothing to sustain themselves, looking to others for help too many times.

Anonymous said...

The time to hang it up has arrived for this book store. The shrinking inventory, the at best aloof staff and the popular move away from books to digital media means lock the door and hand back the key to the landlord. The neighborhood is tired of the begging.

Anonymous said...

It is time for this old animal to die. The owners should have seen the writing on the wall years ago. They are probably not too great at running a business either if they have that much of a nut to crack. $150,000? Really?
Time to let go. Let it die a natural death. Life support needs to be pulled.
You can only go to the well so many times before it is dried up.

Anonymous said...

I love Mast Books on Ave A. They have a great collection of art books and novels and seem to be doing well. St. Marks is just a generic book store that has some art books, some political books, and some cook books. There are reasons why they cannot stay in business. The store is also over-designed with no warm welcoming bookstore feeling.

Anonymous said...

They treat their customers like crap and then they want another hand-out. Take a real small business loan for new stock, stock the shelves, hire some nice people and try and make a go of it. Asking us for money is offensive as offensive as the staff are to those of us who have consistently tried to shop in there. I am also not buying their story as they raised more money then they asked for the first time, and where are the owners. I haven't seen them once in the new store, if they want to make a go of it shouldn't they be behind the cash register and working the floor. I am so over them.

Anonymous said...

Trvia poll:
Which of the two locations on St Marks place was the best location?

Riz Semnopithecus Entellus said...

I went in there a couple of weeks ago. I asked if they had the Game of Thrones series. The expression on the sales person's face was a mix of a sneer and disgust "no, we don't have those".

I guess that store isn't meant for literary low lives like me.

Not shedding a tear for them, get your monthly handout elsewhere.

Caleo said...

This is embarrassing. I used to got to the original location on St. Marks in the 80's, and it was a great bookstore then. I always thought the new location on 3rd and 9th was a waste of space, but still bought many, many books there in the 90's and early aughts.
They wasted alot of money on an architect for the new store instead of just putting up shelves and buying books.
How damned clueless can you be. I'm actually shocked the store has lasted this long if this is how clueless the owners are. Completely out of touch.
I visit Mast books and they seem to be doing great. It's not the neighborhood, it's the owners and staff at St. Marks that have killed it.
$150,000 ??? Even they can't think they will get this. And they definitely don't deserve it. Time to call it quits guys.

Anonymous said...

First then came after my bakery, and I then went hungry . . .
Next they closed the shoemakers and I became shoeless and hungry
Then they called the marshals on the book dealers, and I went mad
Now I'm a new denizen of the world, and quite ready to make my move.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12:19, The one on the north side, with the upstairs and downstairs.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the architecture firm they hired to design bookshelves can donate some money back to them...

Anonymous said...

Their staff is on par with the recently shuttered Stuy Town post office.

Anonymous said...

Ditto: north side, with the upstairs and downstairs.

blue glass said...

i kinda liked the sprawling feel of the store on the south side of st. marks.
but both were really ok.
and the staff were down to earth and helpful

for me 3rd avenue was the end of st. marks books.

Christopher Pelham said...

Actually, the payed Clouds Architecture Office very little for the design, a few thousand at most for which they got their money's worth because the design won a national award and is IMO wonderful. The bottom shelves angle up allowing one to more easily read the titles without kneeling down and the curves allow one to see more books from the entrance and also create a little office space behind them.

But I agree with other posters that they should sell online, buy and sell select used books, stock a few more books that the neighbors would would be more interested in, and do more to market their stock, like sending out emails describing the new arrivals and posting staff recommendations along the shelves like The Strand and some others do.

Anonymous said...

Good grief. They aren't exactly begging for $150k, they are, in fact, offering a sweet discount going forward and, doh, it takes that much, at least, to restock a bookstore. If you buy books it's a pretty good deal. It's absolutely true that Bob and Terry and mediocre business people but . . . they do know books and even now, with no real ordering in years, it's still an amazing store, worth supporting. So what if they aren't the most happening place at this moment? Encourage them to restock and grown a new audience and they might be.

Anonymous said...

Because they have no business plan, they refuse to hire staff who cares and won't stock mainstream books.

Anonymous said...

I work in book publishing. St. Marks Bookshop can go fck itself.

Anonymous said...

Oh and for people wondering why anyone says "fuck Strand"? Strand is ridiculous. People who love the Strand want you to know that they READ, DAMMIT. Fucking alphabetize your shelves already, you horrible hipsters. It is the Joan Didion tote bag of bookstores.

Maria Jerskey said...

I have lived a block away from the current location for 25 years and I'm an English professor.

I was excited to see we'd have a new bookstore in the neighborhood, but the ownership seems to have no interest in us: what we're interested in reading, what goes on in the neighborhood, etc. They have been consistently unfriendly and seem to be curating their meager inventory on an imaginary readership they *wish* they had.

They are right across the street from a public school with lots of parents, teachers, and kids passing every day. You'd think they'd consider expanding their repertoire to meet the needs and interest of locals. A literacy club? Partner with local schools? Get in some local authors for readings and discussion? Something?!

Mucho arrogance, little passion, no compassion.

I'm sorry to say that it might be time to give it up.

Anonymous said...


I agree with Maria completely. This store could have done much better if they'd embraced their new local community and responded to its needs.

As another commenter said above, "It's absolutely true that Bob and Terry and mediocre business people."

Maybe they should sell the business to a more savvy owner -- I bet it could still work -- with friendly staff, more relevant book selection, etc.

Anonymous said...

I'm sad to say...it's just not a very iteresting bookstore. Even the window display with all the magazines--dullsville.

Anonymous said...

Fuck them. I'm a local author and asked a few times (9th st and then 3rd Street) about doing readings and/or selling books on consignment (I self-publish and publish through houses). No interest. Really? All the local authors in the EV, and you cant do one monthly event? Their staff is also among the rudest, laziest and most dismissive Ive encountered.

Fuck them.

Gregoire Alessandrini said...

Right on !
Sad to see it gone though...

Mark Hand The Catchman said...

There's a St Marks in Brooklyn... they might have better success there with hipsters and all

David Wilder said...

Why not turn into a non-profit?