June 26, 2019
New York’s Book Culture stores seek help . . . but this isn’t a fundraiser
by Ryan Harrington
Book Culture—the popular New York City bookstore with three locations in Manhattan and one in Long Island City, Queens—is in need of some financial relief.
In a recent Facebook post addressed to Mayor de Blasio, Governor Cuomo, and on down to the citizens of New York, Book Culture’s co-owner Chris Doeblin announced the problem at hand:
There is a situation that I need help with and I want to address as large a group as possible in the hopes of finding a solution. I hope to also make a statement about the future of our city.
Our 4 stores are in danger of closing soon and we need financial assistance or investment on an interim basis to help us find our footing. This is true in spite of the fact that business has been good and we are widely supported and appreciated.
But this initiative is not being framed as your classic fundraiser. As the store tweeted on Monday:
So how can you help?
We’re not going to do a crowdfunding campaign or anything like that. We ask that, if possible, you write to the city council, mayor, or governor (we even have a letter writing desk in two of our stores!) Help us make our case for our continued existence.
— book culture (@bookculture) June 24, 2019
What Doeblin has called for is a campaign to make the city more hospitable to booksellers. Indeed to smaller businesses in general. Thus he proposes putting pressure on our elected officials, who were so willing to chase Amazon with sweetheart tax breaks, to ask them not to forget the little guys.
Though Doeblin does not consider Book Culture’s impact to be little. He continues:
Book Culture’s stores generate over $650,000 in sales tax revenue each year for the city and state. We employ over 75 people at peak season and had a payroll over $1.7M last year. All of that payroll along with the $700,000 a year that we pay in rent goes right back into the New York economy, which is why I address our government here. Many large development plans, Amazons HQ2 in LIC for example, included a cost to taxpayers of $48,000 per job. There is a history here of local government aiding business when it produces a return for the locality.
And those are just the financial stats.
If we start to think about what we value in our community—a thought exercise we should be doing much more regularly and publicly—a place like Book Culture starts to look like a much more worthy investment than the already-stable and growing Amazon.
In that spirit, Book Culture even has a writing desk in two of their locations.
Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.