January 20, 2016

St. Mark’s Bookshop receives support from anonymous investor, temporarily avoids closure


It’s true—indie bookstores across the country are seeing steady improvements to business. That said, many don’t have to pay rent in Manhattan. And around these parts, it can sometimes feel like the community of independent booksellers is constantly under siege.

In particular, St. Mark’s Bookstore, located in Manhattan’s East Village, has had a rough couple of years. The bookstore has been constantly bopping around trying to dodge the area’s calamitous rent hikes. In 2015, after having finally settled into their new space at 136 East Third Street, the venerable bookseller was brought to court by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) over unpaid rent. St. Mark’s, being an independent business, also found itself undercapitalized and unable to recover from the cost of their most recent move—times were so rough, they had difficulty stocking the store’s shelves.

But wait! What’s that? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s an anonymous investor swooping in to assume responsibility for their new lease and settle accounts with the NYCHA, under the condition that the store raise enough money through a GoFundMe campaign to restock the shelves and resume business as usual.

From Judith Rosen at Publishers Weekly:

An investor responded to the bookstore’s latest financial appeal on GoFundMe. He will take over the store’s lease and pay the back rent of $62,000, if the store raises enough money to stock the store. “He believes, as I do,” wrote co-owner Bob Contant on Monday, “that if we fill the store with books, our business will increase and we’ll be able to pay our way.”

NYCHA has also agreed to settle. But St. Mark’s still has a way to go to boost its inventory. Since the beginning of December, the store has raised just over $21,700. Initially the bookstore had been looking for $150,000 to get on solid financial footing.

What are you waiting for? Folks donating more than $25 will receive lifetime discounts at the store, depending on the level of contribution. We wonder what kind of markdown their new investor is getting?




Simon Reichley is the Director of Operations and Rights Manager at Melville House.