Lend A Hand to St. Mark’s Bookshop

by Katie Sharrow-Reabe

For 37 years, the independently run St. Mark’s Bookshop has been able to fight against big-box competitors, internet behemoths, and escalating rent prices in order to keep its doors open. The owners are planning the next phase of the store, but they need your help to make it happen.

For the past 1.5 years, St. Mark’s has been looking to move into a smaller space but co-owners Terry McCoy and Bob Contant would like the store to stay in the East Village. In 2011, they were able to negotiate a short-term deal with the property owner, Cooper Union, to lower their monthly rent from $20,000 to a still-staggering $17,500. Since then, they have hosted several fundraisers and auctions to raise money and are simultaneously applying for grants. After a couple of unsuccessful relocation attempts, they have scouted a new location–not more than 10 blocks away from the current store–and are in negotiations.

St. Mark’s has also recently assembled a volunteer-run committee, the Friends of St. Mark’s Bookshop, to oversee the development of the bookshop into a nonprofit arts organization and literary center. The committee is spearheaded by a organizational consultant, Erica Hunt, and broken down into several sub-committees. By making their events not-for-profit, they would be able to write off a lot of their expenses. Right now the committee is trying to raise funds for the new store and to purchase new inventory that, according to McCoy, is presently at an all-time low. You can help by making a cash donation or purchasing books. Sign up for their email list to learn about upcoming fundraisers, readings, art exhibitions, and events.

The threat of having to permanently close its doors looms over St. Mark’s as well as most every other bookstore in the country. Other local casualties include the Hue-Man Bookstore in Harlem and Midtown’s Gotham Book Mart. Even Barnes & Nobles’s flagship locations have closed this year. Like St. Mark’s, Rizzoli Bookstore is looking to relocate: Last month developers announced plans to tear down the stunning storefront on 57th Street to make room for more high-rise condominiums.

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