February 12, 2019

McNally Jackson to expand—and add two new stores

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Rumors of McNally Jackson’s troubles have been greatly exaggerated.

Back in October, devotees of the beloved indie bookstore became anxious when owner Sarah McNally announced that the original Prince Street store would be forced to relocate due to a massive rent hike. Though she planned to move on from the flagship shopfront, which she described to The Gothamist as “shoddy” and “thrown up over a former chicken abattoir,” she promised to remain in the neighborhood, and seemed excited about the prospect of designing and launching a new location.

But in a recent reversal of fortune, detailed by Nick Tabor in Vulture, McNally Jackson won’t just retain its original location—it will expand into two new storefronts in downtown Brooklyn and Seaport:

The City Point store will occupy two floors and roughly 5,300 square feet, about as much as the Prince Street store — though instead of a café, McNally thinks she’ll put in vast stationery and young-adult sections. She might also add a science and technology area, hemmed in by tall shelves so as to feel like a miniature store unto itself.

The two-story Seaport shop, meanwhile, will span several buildings and more than 7,000 square feet. The windows upstairs will overlook the water and the cobblestone streets. “I get the chance to craft a beautiful bookstore, like New York has never had—other than Three Lives,” the West Village store that opened in 1968. “It’s like John Sandoe in London, but huge.” The developers rejected her idea for a literal labyrinth of bookshelves, which visitors would pay to enter, so she’s settling for old leather armchairs chairs inside and a bar with outdoor seating. It’s part of a bigger development that will include restaurants led by David Chang and Jean-Georges Vongerichten and a hotel developed by the Cipriani family.

Having reached a deal with the Prince Street landlord and received favorable rent prices for its new locations, McNally Jackson seems poised to become New York’s premier indie bookstore chain—remarkable progress for a store that was born and raised in the age of Amazon.

And, as Tabor notes, now that McNally has successfully worked her way out of the vice of gentrification, she’ll have to grapple with a very different issue: her store’s potential participation in it.

 

James Collier is an intern at Melville House.

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