For months, the Strand bookstore in downtown Manhattan, from its fiction stacks to its cookbook part to its uncommon books, has been practically abandoned. But on Sunday, half an hour earlier than the shop was scheduled to open, a few dozen individuals lined up within the cool fall breeze, ready to get inside.
They had are available response to a plea from the shop’s proprietor, Nancy Bass Wyden, who introduced on social media Friday that its income was down practically 70 % from final 12 months and that the enterprise had turn out to be unsustainable. “I’m going to pull out all the stops to keep sharing our mutual love of the printed word,” she wrote. “But for the first time in the Strand’s 93-year history, we need to mobilize the community to buy from us so we can keep our doors open until there is a vaccine.”
The Strand’s legacy has not been with out issues, and Ms. Wyden has a tense relationship with the union that represents her staff. But it’s a New York City establishment, a throwback to a quirkier kind of native retail, and many New Yorkers have been unwilling to let it go down with out a struggle.
“I really couldn’t believe to see that such a big piece of New York culture is struggling,” mentioned Victoria Pompa, 23, who got here from Staten Island together with her dad and mom after seeing a publish from the shop on Instagram. “So we just wanted to come and show our support.”
Ms. Wyden mentioned the decision for assist produced a growth in enterprise on Saturday: a single-day file of 10,000 on-line orders, so many who the web site crashed. That day was additionally the most effective single day within the month of October that the flagship retailer, close to Union Square, has ever had, and the most effective day ever on the Strand’s Upper West Side department, which opened earlier this 12 months. In the 48 hours for the reason that plea went out, the shop processed 25,000 on-line orders, in contrast with about 600 in a typical two-day interval.
One of them was a purchase order of 197 books from a buyer within the Bronx. “I’ll have to write her a thank you letter,” Ms. Wyden mentioned.
Ms. Wyden mentioned that staff have canceled holidays and have been coming in on days off to assist with the surge.
“We’re optimistic,” mentioned Laura Ravo, the Strand’s new chief working officer. “We asked for a lot of love and we received a lot of love, both in store and online, and on social.”
With tens of millions of individuals largely caught at residence, guide gross sales are up this 12 months. But a lot of that procuring is occurring on-line, and impartial bookstores throughout the United States have rushed to reinvent themselves even as they watched their sales crater. The American Booksellers Association said this month that more than one independent bookstore has closed every week since the pandemic began.
Among the stores struggling most are the larger independents, which have higher expenses for space and staffing and need more sales to keep going. They also tend to be more reliant on events like readings and signings for their revenue. The Strand usually hosts about 400 events a year.
In their place, the store has done online readings and is experimenting with offerings like a Book of the Month program and boxes of “book hookup” surprise titles, which are grouped by genre. The store is also providing private guided tours of its rare books collection, a staff expert to curate and stock home libraries, and “books by the foot” sold as decorative space filler in the new era of bookshelves as Zoom backdrops.
Still, when Ms. Wyden saw the store’s receipts for September — a month in which she had expected business to rebound as students returned to school and some businesses reopened — she said she realized that those initiatives weren’t enough. She decided to make a direct appeal to customers.
“People tell me all the time that this is their favorite place,” she said. “They seem to always have a Strand story. I met somebody at a cocktail party and she told me about getting engaged in the rare book room. Two people came in yesterday, this was their first date.”
Ms. Wyden’s relationship with the union has been less romantic, with allegations of contract violations and union busting going back for years, said Melissa Guzy, a shop steward in the Strand’s art department. This summer, employees protested outside the stores saying that Ms. Wyden had laid off most of its employees despite receiving a Payroll Protection Program loan to retain 212 jobs.
The union also criticized Ms. Wyden for buying stock this year in Amazon, a company that is despised in the indie bookstore world. Ms. Wyden has said it was a way to generate money that could be put back into the store.
“Really, sustaining the stores, it’s been a marathon with no end in sight,” Ms. Wyden said. “So we really had to be careful with the P.P.P. loan money.”
Ms. Guzy said that despite their disagreements, she still hoped the store would survive.
“When people support the Strand, they aren’t just supporting Nancy, they’re supporting us, they’re supporting the workers,” Ms. Guzy said.
There were no demonstrators outside the flagship store on Sunday, just a steady stream of customers in a line stretching around the block. Many, like Dan Bressner and Kaitlin Kwiatkowski of Manhattan, who were shopping together, said they had heard about the store’s plea for help and about its labor dispute.
“It’s awkward because the track record for the ownership here is not great,” Mr. Bressner said. “But it’s also an institution. My parents shopped here.”
Ms. Kwiatkowski agreed, and she bought three books that day. “We’ve got to do our small part,” she said.