If you’ve lived in New York for two decades, like me, you get used to neighborhoods changing, and businesses opening and closing. While there are some good changes, um, hello, Shake Shack, more often than not, beloved restaurants, record stores, and even gritty night clubs turn into the inevitable— yet another Duane Reade.
So, you’d think I’d be immune to these closings, and I was, that is until Shakespeare and Company, a small independent book chain, announced they were closing their Greenwich Village store. While I’m saddened every time a book store closes, in this case, sad doesn’t cover it.
You see, in 1997, fresh out of college, with library and book store experience already under my very nerdy belt, I landed a job at Shakespeare and Co. In the matter of a few months I had recommended books to Susan Sarandon, read my weight in literary fiction, become a manager, perfected the art of bar hopping in the East Village, and met my now husband (also a manager there).
When I left the store a year and a half later to pursue a career in publishing, I knew that I would always look back fondly at those days of fumbling through young adulthood surrounded by books. In fact, when my husband and I got married, 8 years later, we even had a Shakespearean themed wedding, with former co-workers and one of the owners of the store in attendance.
I understand that the rent was too high and that it’s a very tough business with a lot of overhead and competition from online retailers, and big box stores. It’s especially tough in New York, as the NY Times recently reported.
So what can we do to help save other independent bookstores across the country? If you live near one, you can shop there. It’s worth the few extra dollars to shop local. Even if they don’t have a huge stock, many independents are happy to special order books. We can go hear authors speak at independent stores and purchase books to be signed. In some cases you can even host book clubs there, birthday parties, or even weddings.
If you don’t live close to an independent store, you can still order online from some. Sherman Alexie’s awesome site, Indie bound is a great resource for all things related to independent book stores.
Let’s fight the good fight so more stores can stay open even in this economic climate, because after all, no one moves into a neighborhood because of the charming Duane Reade.
Photo: Shakespeare and Company in the Village.