Business of the Month: Save St. Mark's Books!
Today we feature our latest Business of the Month — and we need your help selecting the next. Tell us which independent store you love in Greenwich Village, the East Village or NoHo: just click here to vote for your favorite. Want to help support small businesses? Share this post with friends.
St. Mark’s Bookshop has been a part of the East Village since the 1970s. Unlike the large chain stores we are accustomed to now, St. Mark’s specializes in small and independent press, periodicals and journals. Though it has moved over the years, St. Mark’s has managed to remain a presence within the East Village, serving students at the local universities as well as maintaining a stock that has attracted people from all over the world to their shelves. What set St. Mark’s apart from other bookstores at the time was their wide range of books on critical theory, especially Post-Structuralism.
Originally located on St. Mark’s Place, in the 1990’s, Cooper Union solicited St. Mark’s to be their commercial tenant in one of their 3rdAvenue buildings, offering a very reasonable rent and a 15 year lease. However, with restructuring within the institution, their rent was raised dramatically.
A campaign was launched and spearheaded by the Cooper Square Committee to save St. Mark’s Bookshop and, while successful in reducing the rent, it was still too much for the small bookstore to afford. They eventually ended up finding a space at 136 east 3rd Street near Avenue A, in the historic (and landmarked) First Houses, where they remain today, surviving, albeit at a somewhat reduced scale.
Said owner Bob Contant:
“It took us quite a while to find a space. We found the space we’re in now on 3rd Street and Avenue A, and it’s extremely reasonable rent, but it’s got a marginal location. For people who visited our old store on 3rd Avenue, that was ideal. It was a main drag, it was close to the subways, it was close to CU, NYU, and the New School. Now we’re in a neighborhood and while it’s nice to be in a neighborhood we don’t have the kind of business that we had then, although we’re smaller and we have less staff we don’t need the same level of business to survive, but we do need to be restocked.”
Bob further explains what makes this store so special and unique compared to the others in the neighborhood:
“We have a lot of small press, both literature and poetry. We have an extremely wide range of periodicals and journals, probably the biggest selection in the city. That includes almost every literary journal being published, plus a lot of other areas including music and fashion and art. We do have a clientele that keeps coming back every month to get the new issue of whatever it is, so there’s that that keeps us current. We try and pick up on the more interesting titles that are kind of below the radar but are very popular with our clientele.”
St. Marks’s biggest challenge today is restocking their store. Back in December, they started a GoFundMe campaign to try and raise money to obtain new stock. You can support the store’s campaign, and help one of the few Village entities left that supports local and independent publishing and writers.
Read more here.
With GVSHP's "Business of the Month" program, each month a local, independent business is featured on GVSHP's website, blog and social media, to showcase one of our neighborhoods' great and unique commercial treasures. We hope it will increase support and patronage, aiding our local small businesses' health and viability. We're asking you, the public, to nominate your favorite businesses for consideration for our "Business of the Month." To nominate a business just fill in this brief form. See our past Businesses of the Month here.