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Booksellers Departing Manhattan in Droves

By Harriet Staff


NY Times claims that independent booksellers and chain bookstores alike are fleeing Manhattan’s hyperbolic rents for locations as far flung as Jersey City, the common thread pitching their tents in boroughs like Brooklyn. From NY Times:

When Sarah McNally, the owner of McNally Jackson bookstore in Lower Manhattan, set out to open a second location, she went to a neighborhood with a sterling literary reputation, the home turf of writers from Edgar Allan Poe to Nora Ephron: the Upper West Side.

She was stopped by the skyscraper-high rents.

“They were unsustainable,” Ms. McNally said. “Small spaces for $40,000 or more each month. It was so disheartening.”

Rising rents in Manhattan have forced out many retailers, from pizza joints to flower shops. But the rapidly escalating cost of doing business there is also driving out bookstores, threatening the city’s sense of self as the center of the literary universe, the home of the publishing industry and a place that lures and nurtures authors and avid readers.

“Sometimes I feel as if I’m working in a field that’s disappearing right under my feet,” said the biographer and historian Robert Caro, who is a lifelong New Yorker.

The Rizzoli Bookstore was recently told that it would be forced to leave its grand space on 57th Street because the owners decided that the building would be demolished.

The Bank Street Bookstore in Morningside Heights announced in December that it would not renew its lease when it expires in February 2015, saying that it had lost money for the last decade. Both stores are scrambling to find new locations.

Independents like Coliseum Books, Shakespeare and Company on the Upper West Side, Endicott Booksellers and Murder Ink have all closed their doors.

In the past, those smaller stores were pushed out by superstores — a trend memorably depicted in the 1998 film “You’ve Got Mail” — leaving book lovers worried that someday, Manhattan would be dominated by chain bookstores.

But now the chain stores are shutting down, too. Since 2007, five Barnes & Noble stores throughout Manhattan have closed, including its former flagship store on Fifth Avenue and 18th Street, which was shuttered in January. Five Borders stores in Manhattan were closed in 2011 when the chain went bankrupt, vacating huge spaces on Park Avenue, near Penn Station and in the Shops at Columbus Circle.

State data reveals that from 2000 to 2012, the number of bookstores in Manhattan fell almost 30 percent, to 106 stores from 150. Jobs, naturally, have suffered as well: Annual employment in bookstores has decreased 46 percent during that period, according to the state’s Department of Labor.

The American Booksellers Association, a trade group for independents, has 39 member stores in Manhattan, a number that includes museum shops and Hudson News locations in Penn Station, where magazines and bottled water are displayed far more prominently than books. (Some independent bookstores have found it easier to survive in Brooklyn, the borough already teeming with writers like Jennifer Egan and Martin Amis.) […]

Read, and weep, more at NYT.

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Posted in Poetry News on Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 by Harriet Staff.