Iconic bookstore makes plea to customers in effort to stay open

Zoe Christen Jones
·3 min read

New York City's iconic landmark The Strand bookstore is asking for customers' assistance to keep their doors open as fallout from the coronavirus pandemic continues to put pressure on businesses in the city.

In a statement Friday, Strand said its revenue has dropped 70% compared to last year and that the loans and cash reserves it relied on from the beginning of the pandemic have been depleted. The store's owner, Nancy Bass Wyden, called the store's business "unsustainable" without the help of its loyal customers in a letter addressed to "dear friends" of the bookstore.

"I'm going to pull out all the stops to keep sharing our mutual love of the printed word," Bass Wyden said in a statement. "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 statement encouraged supporters of the store to spend money, buy gift cards and support the store using #savethestrand on social media. In response, authors and celebrities have expressed their love and support for the bookstore. 

BUY BOOKS!!! https://t.co/yIF1P5li7g

— Natasha Rothwell (@natasharothwell) October 23, 2020

Bass Wyden is the third-generation owner of Strand, which she inherited after her father died in 2019. The Strand's current address at 828 Broadway has been the store's location since 1957 after Bass Wyden's grandfather moved the business from its original residence on Fourth Avenue's "Book Row." In 1996, her family purchased the building for $8.2 million amid rising rent prices in a bid to keep the iconic storefront alive, the New York Times reported. Now, as a major icon of New York City, the Strand stakes its claim to fame by stocking roughly 2.5 million rare, used and new books.

When the Strand was considered for landmark status in New York City, the committee involved called the iconic store "an internationally recognized bookstore and destination" and a "center of literary life in Lower Manhattan." It was also one of the New York businesses that received a Paycheck Protection Program loan from the federal government, although it did not prevent layoffs, both at the onset of the pandemic and after the store reopened in July.

"We did receive a PPP loan," a Strand spokesperson told CBS News. "Most staff were laid off in March, with rehiring throughout June and July as New York entered Phase II. The PPP loan has helped keep us afloat, but our monthly revenue just isn't sustainable in the long-term so we can't rehire the rest of our staff. We'll have to give back part of the loan due to the forgiveness rules attached to the loan." But, the spokesperson added "the response has been incredible. Even in a time like now when so much is happening, people are showing up and showing out for us. People want to see local, independent businesses stick around and after 93 years we're doing everything we can to keep going for 93 more. "

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