How The Strand Bookstore Keeps Going

The Strand

This is a terrific article that details the continued survival of The Strand, one of New York’s great institutions, and a favorite haunt of mine. Founded in 1927, the store has long boasted of “eighteen miles of books” at its iconic location at the corner of Broadway and 12th Street, in the heart of Manhattan’s downtown. Though The Strand still buys large quantities of used books and libraries, it has managed to survive in the digital age by selling larger quantities of new books and bestsellers, and by becoming a kind of gift shop for visitors to the city:

[Third-generation co-owner Nancy Bass Wyden] has also grasped that the Strand’s future can be bolstered by selling things besides books. Fifteen percent of the store’s revenue now comes from merch: T-shirts, postcards, notebooks, superhero action figures (they’re near the graphic novels), and especially those canvas tote bags, produced in dozens of variations. The success of the tchotchke business is, she says, one way in which book shopping has changed. Whereas individuals used to come in and root around for hours, today’s buyers shop faster and in a targeted way, often in groups. More tourists come than ever, and books about New York are piled up by the front for them. The store also has a big event space, and the wine flows regularly: launch parties, signings, a book-swapping mixer created in partnership with OkCupid. Bookstore visits are ‘a social thing,’ Nancy explains as we walk past a wall of T-shirts.