Monday, April 14th, 2014

How Bookstores Survive

Here's a look at how six great independent bookstores make it in the big city, which is actually a question I have always wanted answered. The Park Slope Community Bookstore has done it in part by catering to Park Slope's child-related needs, which seems obvious; BookCourt did it by buying their building and, eventually, the building next door. PowerHouse Arena, as anyone who goes to things knows, does it by tirelessly having things to go to (and lots and lots of space rental). The lovely Greenlight books did it through canny investment and fundraising and by being a bookstore where a bookstore was needed. And Sarah McNally of McNally Jackson does it by selling a crapload of books:

She attributes more than $4 million in sales last year to an obvious factor: volume. “Instead of getting rid of shelf for display,” she says, “we’ve gotten rid of display space for shelf space.” So 65,000 books have been squeezed into 7,000 square feet (along with a café), while creative organizing keeps them compulsively browsable.

My only complaint about these bookstores is that, with the exception of BookCourt's cat (pictured!), there aren't enough cats in them.

14 Comments / Post A Comment

There is a very good cat who usually sits on the stacks of NYRB Classics at Spoonbill & Sugartown in Williamsburg, which at this point is the only reason to go to Williamsburg but is worth the trip honestly.

jolie (#16)

@Brendan O'Connor@facebook 'Sup?

@jolie hi Jolie how was your weekend

jolie (#16)

@Brendan O'Connor@facebook It was good, thanks! I did a dramatic reading of a Valleywag comment thread that lasted for TWO HOURS and managed to keep my audience with me. Good times. (Though I'm a lil' jeals that Choire got a visit from the knife truck and I didn't!) How was your weekend?

Related: Stockholm Syndrome is a hell of a thing, isn't it?

@jolie On Friday I went and listened to Choire talk about obscure gays who wrote stories for the New Yorker in the '40s so I don't know what you're talking about (re: Stockholm) I'm sure.

jolie (#16)

Oh you just need to start hanging out at Enchantments more often. Their cats, as you'd expect, are marvelous—and this is me saying so! The unfriendly one came for me and the witches were, like, WHOA.

Oh I love that place–haven't been in years, so glad to hear it's still around.

jfruh (#713)

In Seattle they're doing it by … catering to Amazon employees, apparently?

Amy Plitt@facebook (#270,156)

The Community Bookstore has the best bookstore cat, Tiny the Usurper. He keeps the rowdy Park Slope children from acting out too much, and he's also a very handsome boy:

My bodega has a GREAT cat he is all black and lets me pick him up and tries to jump into your arms when you are at the ATM.

hockeymom (#143)

I have a non-NYC recommendation. I love this bookstore so much and if you are ever in Minneapolis, go to it. Even if you are not a kid.
Wild Rumpus is located in Linden Hills, which is a cute little neighborhood, south of the lakes. There's a big door for grown-ups and a tiny door for kids. Inside, there are great books, but also a veritable menagerie of animals. Cats, ferrets, mice, a tarantula named Thomas Jefferson and a bunch of chickens wandering around. The spider is not actually wandering around. The spider is located below a glass window on the floor of the bookstore so kids can walk over the spider. The cats are Manx, so no tails and also super friendly. Lots of comfy chairs, great author visits and best of all, it's next to some really terrific restaurants for people over the age of 12.

Thus ends my unsolicited testimonial for a children's bookstore in Minneapolis.

Mr. B (#10,093)

Meanwhile, in Jersey, Mendham Books, which had a be-sweatered poodle running around between customers' legs all the time, closed last month. :(

stinapag (#10,293)

My favorite bookstore cats are at Moby Dickens in Taos, New Mexico. They seem to always be playing in the window by the front door.

The current kitties there are Tony and Mabel (picture on website here:!about-moby/c1enr) though my favorite kitty name ever may be their predecessor Ibid.

Ralph Haygood (#13,154)

In Chapel Hill, NC, The Bookshop of Chapel Hill survives partly by having two charming cats, who spend much of their time lounging in the front window.

This post and its comments leave little doubt that the most important factor in bookstore survival in this Amazon-ravaged era is cats.

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