The original idea for this project was spurred by the news in September that St. Mark's Bookshop was in danger of closing because the store could no longer afford its rent. Commentary on the disappearance of independent bookstores regularly points to competition from chain bookstores - and now, the Internet - as the main cause. In the case of many stores, changing trends in book buying can affect sales which in turn affects the ability to afford a high rent. However, at least in New York City, the fact that rents and property values in independent bookstores' neighborhoods have continued to soar to exorbitant rates is an issue worth examining.
The Gotham Book Mart was not as fortunate as St. Mark's Bookshop when in 2007 it ended up closing because the owner was in severe debt to his landlord. When Frances Steloff opened the Gotham Book Mart in 1920, her rent was $110 a month (Rogers 95). The store moved two more times within the space of a few blocks in midtown Manhattan partly because business was growing and required more space. At the store's final location, the rent was $51,000 a month (Hartocollis 2006). Even taking into account inflation, it is easy to see how then owner Andreas Brown fell behind on payments, which led to the store's closure.
Although it was saved by the intervention of Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer, St. Mark's Bookshop faced similar difficulties in these last few months. Due to declining sales, which store owners Bob Contant and Terry McCoy attributed to the economic slump rather than online or ebook compeition, the store reduced its inventory from 43,000 books to about half that amount. Contant and McCoy also "laid off all eight of their part-time workers and reduced the five full-timers’ hours to 25 a week" (Leland Sept. 2011). The store's rent had been $375 a month for 600-square feet when it first opened in 1977. In their current space, the rent due to landlord Cooper Union was $20,000 a month until in November the two parties reached an agreement to reduce that amount to $17,500 a month for one year and to forgive $7,500 of the store's debt (Leland Nov. 2011),
If the owners can afford it, one option to circumvent the problem of constantly rising rents is to buy the building. The Basses bought the building housing the Strand at 828 Broadway in the 1990s. Henry Zook and Mary Gannett of BookCourt bought the building housing their store at 163 Court Street a few years after opening in the 1980s.
by momif989, at Dec. 18, 2011, 6:13 p.m.
by momif989, at Dec. 18, 2011, 5:05 p.m.
by momif989, at Dec. 17, 2011, 7:07 p.m.
by momif989, at Dec. 16, 2011, 7:20 p.m.
by momif989, at Dec. 16, 2011, 3:01 p.m.