Friday, January 8, 2016

Report: Latest woe for St. Mark's Bookshop — possible eviction


[EVG file photo]

According to published reports, St. Mark's Bookshop is in danger of losing its home since July 2014 on East Third Street. The storefront in the First Houses between Avenue A and First Avenue is owned by the NYCHA, who reportedly started the eviction process this past July.

Per DNAinfo: "NYCHA ... said the shop owes $68,361.70 as of this month — a combination of its monthly $6,180 rent, as well as an additional $68.94 in monthly water charges."

Bookshop co-owner Bob Contant told DNAinfo that his attorney was working to get the notice dismissed because "there were a lot of problems with the way the notice was served." While Contant said that the Bookshop was behind on rent, the amount that he and his business partner Terry McCoy owe is less than what the NYCHA is claiming. ("The city has one figure, we have another. We're not on the same page.")

There is more information about the eviction at Bedford + Bowery, who first reported on this. And read the full DNAinfo story here, which includes a statement from the NYCHA.

According to an article in May 2014 at The New York Times, the Bookshop's rent is $6,000 at the East Third Street location, roughly one-quarter of the $23,500 charged by their landlord on Third Avenue, the Cooper Union.

The owners return to court on Jan. 20, though they must pay $6,180 to the NYCHA before the case resumes.

On Nov. 30, the Bookshop launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $150,000 that it needs to stay in business. As of last night, the campaign had brought in $18,756.

The Bookshop is now in its 39th year, spread over several East Village locations.

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

Report: Last stand for St. Mark's Bookshop

56 comments:

Anonymous said...

The current rent may be cheaper than at the 3rd Avenue location, but they also have less customers because they are now off the beaten path.

Anonymous said...

Their book selection is way too fussy.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone else tired of hearing about this business as I am? Most small businesses would kill to have that much space for that little rent. They are too reliant on customers that apparently exist, so change the product you are selling, hell change everything which is not working until you get it right. I have my own business for 16 years and I know that you must evolve with the time to stay alive. If they are focused on art books they are doomed since nobody is left in this neighborhood unfortunately which cares about art.

Anonymous said...

i started shopping back in the 80s and love it but sorry, if you can't afford to pay $6k rent for 10 months, then you need to face facts and call it a day. C'mon, that rent is nothing for that area. And it's not like they've missed one month. Reality bites, but their business model just doesn't work anymore. The only way an independent bookstore like this can exist in the city is if it's owned by a millionaire/billionaire who's doing it for love and doesn't need to break even. It's sad, but it's true.

Anonymous said...

The store seemed dead on arrival. New shelves, sparsely filled. They needed to generate energy and excitement at the new space. They didn't do so.

Karen Tighe said...

They never have anything I am looking for..I want it to be good but I just go to McNally Jackson instead..

Caleo said...

Enough already. It's done. If they couldn't make 6 grand a month work then nothing will. And as much as I loved the original location on St. Marks, and I really loved it, these guys have strained the good will of the community and former customers with multiple GoFundMe campaigns.
It's a wrap guys. Call it a day and move on.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 9:07 AM said "They needed to generate energy and excitement at the new space. They didn't do so" That hits the nail on the head.

I was a customer at both St. Marks locations and the one around the corner. They seemed to be a lot more connected to the community then.

But I see nothing from this new location that generates anything. And if you have such a now sparse collection, there better be more to your business plan than "Remember us? Can you spare some more change?"

I love bookstores. I'm a librarian and I still buy too many books. But the owners have let this place die a very sad death. Let it go now.

Anonymous said...

I love to read and support local bookshops. I know it is hard for any kind of small business to survive in this climate, but it seems like this is a case of poor management. The rent on that space is not insane for this area. They had a chance to start over here and correct the mistakes made in the previous location, but the management apparently didn't learn any lessons. In my book-loving dreams, another bookshop would take over this space and make it work.

Anonymous said...

along with everyone else: give it up already.

Gojira said...

I wish I could say I cared any more. I signed the petitions, I bought the books, I donated to a GoFundMe, I endured the contemptuous service, but this place has jumped the shark, and it's just time to let go and move on. Sell online or something, but it's obvious brick-and-mortar is no longer in this particular bookshop's future.

Anonymous said...

The card store on Avenue A, that sells far-cheaper items, doesn't seem to have trouble paying their rent. It's hard to not think the owners never intended to pay, but just rake in as much cash as possible before being evicted for the last time.

Anonymous said...

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

*Ahem* Excuse me. Maybe they should set up a table on the sidewalk?

Anonymous said...

I think we should stop beating up on the two owners of this failing / failed book store. They, perhaps more than anyone, understand the mistakes they made over the years. They have spent a lifetime trying to run a business they thought would make a difference to the community. It seems clear that 10 years ago or so, when the world of book selling began to radically change, they failed to change with the times. Perhaps they were blinded by their memory of past glories. Whatever, their business wasn't working. Lament the passing of a book store, remember that moment when you first went in and stumbled upon something by accident which changed your focus in life even for a while. But please, stop beating up on them as if they personally failed you. All of the suggestions about changing this or that, they have probably thought of already. The bottom line is that they have no credit rating with book distributors. They cannot get new books on a credit line--they have to pay on delivery. And that is what they have not been able to do for at least two years. The death of a bookstore is a sad thing, particularly when it has been part of one's life for so many years. This store has been on life support for several years, and now it is time to pull the plug with some dignity.

Anonymous said...

Looking at these posts, which I agree with, it is obvious that people have lost their patience. Poor business decisions are being made in this situation. I wish the owners would stop asking us for money and either a) bring in a new manager with enthusiasm and a fresh approach to turn things around or b) shut down the business.

Anonymous said...

The reason why people can "beat up on these owners" is that people have donated about $180,000 to this store. That is a lot of money. They got this free money and still can't make it, something has got to change. There are many small businesses that could have used this money. If you don't want to heart the criticism then don't take the money.

Anonymous said...

To the poster at 10:51: The readers of this blog have empathy for the struggles of small business owners, but it gets annoying when businesses that aren't viable ask not once but twice for financial support from customers through online fundraising campaigns.

blue glass said...

the bottom line is that when you are asking your customers for help, for financial help, it would be prudent to treat your customers with respect and provide a modicum of service.
i found the st marks staff to be bored, dismissive, condescending, rude, and rarely helpful from the day they opened on third avenue.
being pretentious does not generate friends or customers. you can only do that after you've succeeded.

Anonymous said...

also, umm...rumor has it that a business can potentially benefit from staff being at least somewhat friendly to customers, smile occasionally, show a modicum of interest in them, and maybe even be polite once in a while.

just a rumor, though.

Anonymous said...

Put a fork in it

chris flash said...

St. Mark's Books has ALWAYS been a great bookstore for me -- the main problem I see here is a bad location where EVERY prior tenant has either failed or had to move due to lack of business: out of view and next to NO foot traffic.

St. Mark's Books would have been better off shopping around a bit longer for a better space -- if they had only gotten the corner of Ave A and Third, which is what the former tenant of their current space did.

Anonymous said...

These guys have been consistently bad at running their bookstore. Met a manager once who confessed that they never really read the lease on their Third Ave. spot. I agree 100% with the comments here that say that it's time for them to go. Running a bookshop is hard work. Have ten people reading this ever been to an event they've programmed? Bookstores are full of ideas and can be full of people, too, if the energy behind the business is a passionate force. With these guys, you would think it's drudgery, then a whole lot of whining. Read what their attorney said: "there were a lot of problems with the way the notice was served." Looking for a workaround rather than doing the hard work the job required. RIP St. Mark's Books, a long time ago...

Lulo Rivin Lancey said...

As much as I love bookstore, I just don't understand why do they want to stay in business? I mean look at it's location, even on the nicest warm day where people are out and about , there's little to no traffic on the block in which it stands. Also, in part, Amazon is responsible for the death of countless bookstore. My local, Barnes & Noble book store, in Forest Hills, has officially closed after twenty years. As of Nov, 30, Saint Marks bookshop, is trying to raise 150,000 to stay in business. They have raised 18,756. I say, If they're not selling enough books online or at the store to pay--the rent--it's time to shut it down or move. I don't feel comfortable with the 150,000 goal. God only knows what that money will really be used for, especially in these desperate times.

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of people that bend over backwards to support longstanding businesses that have thrown in the towel because St Marks Books keeps acting like they are doing their customers a favor by selling them the books that they think their customers should want to read. The people working there act as if they are doing you a favor if you should want to buy something or look for something to buy.

Whoever makes the decisions on what books to stock is completely indifferent to what anyone other than him/herself might be interested in. I went in to buy a copy of the Game of Thrones novel for my nephew, and this dorky little guy with owlish glasses looks at me like I just asked him for help robbing a bank. Sorry, but if you're indignant about the idea of stocking one of the best selling novel series in years because you're too hip, or "intellectual" (a true oxymoron) then you're just not fit for purpose.

As for "beating up on them" normally, I would 100% agree that it's bad taste to kick a dying business. But, St. Mark's Books has become like that loser cousin that always needs a handout. Are they even ashamed that they have squandered $180,000 of people's hard earned money? How can they have the nerve to put their hand out again?

It's time to pull the plug.

Anonymous said...

St. Marks's might have benefited from asking customers what they wanted, and acting on input from "outside" - but of course then they wouldn't be St. Mark's. This store has always seemed to me a little hermetically-sealed, like it exists in its own private world, or as if you had to be a member of some particular "in crowd" who "got it" to shop there. I never "got it" - but that's just my take on it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with many. Give it up. The jig is up. It is absurd to pay that amount of rent, for such a small space, not to mention the lack of foot traffic, especially when one is in arrears. At what point does one admit and accept bookstores function and operate on a different level. I visited the new location and thought the selection was limited. Today, anyone can find something on Amazon, click and buy. St.Marks, it was a good run, we all will miss you....

Anonymous said...

unlike some commenters, i don't think the location is to blame. it might not be the highest traffic spot in the EV but so what? if they did their job and treated customers well, people would COME TO THEM. the EV ain't that big, believe me people would come if they really wanted to. problem is, they don't really want to.

Edmund Dunn said...

"It's over Johnny. It's over!"

Marty E. said...

I've been going here for years, but...since they moved, it really wasn't even close to being the same.

It's too bad, but I don't think that they can be saved.

NOTORIOUS said...

Gojira, would you like to contribute to my Acai Lounge Kickstarter?!?

Gojira said...

NOTORIOUS, absolutely! Where do I send the check?!?

Anonymous said...

I went in to see if i could buy a book on u.s coins, or if they could order it for me i was told "uggghhh order it on-line". So i did.

blue glass said...

it's been a long time since st marks books was on st marks place, and my memory of that store is a bit cloudy.
i do remember a fairly large street level space (south side) stuffed with books and interested customers; a knowledgeable staff that wanted to talk to you, and help you; along with a slew of esoteric books were some not so special regular reads.
you didn't go there to keep the store in business, you went there to buy books and they always had something you wanted. and if they didn't have a particular book they get it for you.
while they did not move at a light-speed pace you never felt like you were not wanted there.
another big problem for any bookstore these days (remember the 4th avenue book row?) are all these techno-devices along with internet shopping. kids today (future book readers) seem to like to do their reading on line and shop with their smart phones.
i am one of those people that still prefer a book.

Anonymous said...

My prediction... January 2026 St Marks bookstore is the sole surviving bookstore all of Manhattan but they need to raise another $6.6 million to stay open.

Anonymous said...

no, no NO!

They crowd funded to STAY, they crowdfunded to MOVE and now they want to crowd fund again?

They have not paid one dime in that space since they have been there.

NOTORIOUS said...

Gojira, send it to my PO Box @ Empire Biscuit!

Anonymous said...

You cannot blame location. Three Lives Bookstore, Bonnie Slotnicks (old & new locale), are two examples of bookstores not on main thoroughfares, and I'm sure there are others. And yet they've managed to survive.

And remember. .this is the THIRD call for money from St. Marks. THREE TIMES. If you can't pre order books, if you can't pay your rent, if you took this much money from true supporters...yeah, it's time. It was a long run.

Gojira said...

NOTORIOUS, the check is in the mail!

Really, it is!

Anonymous said...

Maybe if they pared it down to a literal mom and pop, two-person operation they could make it work. Sounds like this store has an excessive overhead and too many employees.

Anonymous said...

Sigh. Bob and Terry are perhaps the worst people to keep St. Mark's running . . . and yet, they are St. Mark's. I'm not sure what the solution might be . . . it sure seems that someone with a bit of capital (it wouldn't take that much) and general good will in the book world could make St. Mark's successful based on that $6k rent, which is a bargain. You'd need to sell maybe $30k of books a month, minimum, and make do with basically one staff position to make a go of it but, with reasonable stock and a responsible staff selling $1k books a day should be fairly easy. You used to have to _wait in line_ to buy books at the old St. Marks . . . so 20 $50 sales a day shouldn't be a problem, even in the new location, even with reduced stock. Bob and Terry, sadly, are just not the right people to make it work but surely, say, McNally-Jackson could take over and we'd still have a sweet independent bookstore in the EV. It would wouldn't have to be run perfectly. It could still have a quirky, smart, stock and neighborhood events . . . and still make a profit. The space/store is wonderful and the rent makes it all doable. Step in, McNally-Jackson! Expand, Strand!

Anonymous said...

I've been trying to buy books from them even though I have Amazon Prime account, cause I think a community need (at least) a bookstore.
But .. you know how arrogant those guys in the store can be, if you ever shopped in there. They have no interest in books they don't carry. They openly frown on "just-looking-around" guys. No help, no smiles.
And now they are asking for more "support" from the people who quietly tried to save them for more than 5 years? No way. Just let it go.
We'll walk over to Strand, where a lady will help elementary school kids to choose books.

Anonymous said...

I agree. It's way past time to pull the plug. How can they be so smug and anti-social when you go in there to potentially buy books and then have the nerve to reach out for more money? I don't get it. I'm a reader of real books, and yet, I won't miss them. It was never fun. Try East Village Books for a better community feel (and some real second-hand bargains!). Plus, cool ephemera on the wall that speaks of the neighborhood's past and, gasp, friendly sales people.

NOTORIOUS said...

Gojira, awesome! All of my Kickstarters are huge successes! Just ask Pope Edmund of Falun Gong about my Bro Drone Removal service! I took the laser technology from the War of the Worlds machines and applied it to drones. The result is a powerful yet stealth death ray that targets any bro who says "tallboy" indoors or out.

Anonymous said...

Stop blaming St Marks Books, they outlasted almost every other bookstore, including Barnes & Noble which closed down on Astor Place and on 5th Ave years ago, and is barely holding onto it's remaining store in Union Square, which I predict will also close down someday soon. The issue is the East Village itself. As much as we loved Kim's Video, it's gone too. The demographics just don't support books, music, video and paid culture in general. Apparently SoHo still has enough people who buy books, but I doubt McNally-Jackson would survive selling books to a bunch of tattooed teenagers, ageing Hippies, crusties, Japanese tourists and NYU students. Even if these guys had been super nice, said hello and held your hand while you were buying their books, they would still be going out of business just like everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Its sad and wrong how people have given these clowns so much money. If you have money tongive please donate to the Bowery Mission or the NYC Rescue Mission. These guys are scamming all of you. For profit businesses getting donations and the NYC Cares people dont have enough coats. Says it all about the EV in 2016. Sorry this isnt NYUs fault or the bros doing. Pathetic.

Anonymous said...

Explain the success of Strand, Blue Stockings, McNally Jackson, etc. then. Wait, I will. They've adapted to the changing times while staying true to themselves, put customers first, hold events, and are passionate about what they do.

Anonymous said...

There's a very good reason that McNally Jackson isn't expanding its little empire. They know it would be suicide to do so. They have the right location of the right customers and they know their niche market. The same thing goes for The Strand, and it helps that they own the entire building. Because if they didn't own the building, they would probably be gone like everybody else.

Anonymous said...

Can't believe their call for handouts continues with the way they have run this business into the ground; as someone pointed out Kickstarter donations should have more appropriately gone to NYorkers in need and even their city-sponsored space would have been better utilized as a place for homeless to shelter. Foot traffic IS an issue--I was in the Third AVe store at least 3x a week late nights as I live just a few blocks away and bought hundreds of books over the years as both intentional and impulse purchases while I have yet to visit their new location. Never loved the McNally Jackson vibe but pass by several dozen times a year, am in Barnes & Noble USquare probably an average of once a week and bought all my Xmas wrapping paper there this year. Still shop at Strand, also blocks from me, where much of the time it's so busy you can hardly get in the door, and Three Lives where at 7p.m. a week before Xmas there were at least 20 shoppers browsing and a line to pay. Have said this multiple times before on related threads but SMB's haughty intellectual hipster employees destroyed goodwill that could have had many longtime customers paying more to have them order books more cheaply available on Amazon, for instance, and this location was never going to work given distance from local reader base, NYU haunts and tourist path. There were--and remain--multiple available storefronts much nearer to the Third Ave space they vacated including several on side streets or Fourth Avenue empty for years now that would have worked infinitely better and might have been negotiated down to a similar rent. Was there any dialogue with NYU regarding a spot in one of their Third Avenue dorms in exchange for making this invaluable asset a school amenity in some way? Could not the city have given NYU or Cooper Union a tax break equivalent to a rent reduction in one of their real estate holdings? How anyone thought a store that failed in such a high-traffic spot was going to turn around in such an off-the-beaten-path location is beyond me but as was mentioned in an earlier thread at the very least they could have made the store a go-to for children's books and created a new base that way given the proximity of schools and families.

Anonymous said...

When these businesses ask the public to donate money, they should also be required to give an accounting of where that money has gone. I don't understand how they can be behind in rent when they raised so much money from donations. Where did that cash go? What was it spent on?

Anonymous said...

I agree with annon 6:41 pm. It's time that the owners of St. Marks made a public accounting of the monies they have received from public contributions.

Gojira said...

NOTORIOUS, most impressive. Now is there any chance you can program the BroDrone to also take out anyone who utters the words brah, duuude, and woooo? You'd really be doing the neighborhood a service!

Anonymous said...

Maybe if any of the people at this store were nice to their customers they wouldn't have so many ongoing problems. It also sounds like they are bad with managing their money (and repeatedly having fundraisers). I'm getting tired of this "save the bookstore!" story. At this point, it's just doing a disservice to the friendly, well-run bookstores that do actually need our money for legitimate reasons.

nygrump said...

This was a neighborhood where people were interested in ideas. Those days are gone, what we have now is the alcoholic consciousness. People don't buy books, they look at tiny screens on which they send bits of dumbness back and forth.

Anonymous said...

nygrump: perhaps you should speak for yourself and stop generalizing about the neighborhood. This is still a neighborhood where people are interested in ideas (art, theater, dance, poetry, writing). But I guess they don't meet your standards or you just don't know about what is happening in the neighborhood because you are entrenched with denouncing NYU students, young men and women who come to drink on weekends (yes they are awful). "People don't buy books"--maybe you don't but lots of us do. And many of us don't read books on Ipads. The reason for the ongoing failure of St. Marks Books is probably complex: poor management, failure to have a new vision, poorly trained staff, etc. etc. Let's let it die in peace. There are lots of things going on in the East Village. Too bad you are such a grump that you don't want to participate anymore.

nygrump said...

nah, I prefer generalizing based on incessant observation I'm forced to see repeatedly. The idiots who walk into me into their cell phones aren't reading discussion about literature. They're jockeying to make sure they don't miss out on that night's alcohol fueled event.

I guess you should all be complaining about Lincoln center or the Opera or any other center of classical culture that live on donations. Books have become a cultural artifact like opera or mozart.

It is only going to get worse. The booze pacification industry is working to bring in hard alcohol taps (called cocktail batching) to the east village, basically so they can automate the rather labor intensive booze industry.

rc said...

This week's Village Voice has an article on this bookstore and quotes from some of the comments here. I have a couple of comments of my own:
1) Whatever happened to the $1 million donation this bookstore got from writer James Patterson? They sent out an email about it, after they'd moved to the 3rd Street location. Did that donation end up not happening?
2) I think it's sad that ever since they had to leave their previous location at 3rd Avenue and 9th Street, said location has remained vacant! Serves their former landlord right, I suppose... But I still think that was a much better location than where they are now.