Monday, April 27, 2009

Independent Bookstores in NYC

Let me start by saying this: I am a bit ashamed of myself.

Before moving to western Massachusetts to join the Odyssey as their events coordinator, I lived in Brooklyn and worked as an assistant literary agent for a small boutique agency in the Gramercy Park area of Manhattan.

For those not looking closely (and I was one of those), New York City appears to be, on the surface, primarily a "Barnes and Noble" kind of town. There is one in just about every neighborhood of the five boroughs-- if not more -- and, from what I can remember, only a handful of Borders (which I've always disliked). The closest B&N to where I worked is the GIANT store in Union Square (14th and Park Avenue). It has four floors of books, an enormous, inviting cafe to read in during lunch breaks or after a long day at the office, and a fiction section to make just about anyone drool -- regardless of how you feel about the chains.

I've always tried to support as many locally-owned indie bookstores as possible. Every time I go home to Camden, ME, I make sure to stop into the Owl and Turtle Bookshop. On the few occasions my husband and I can make it to Martha's Vineyard for a few cherished days, I stop into both Edgartown Books and the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore in Vineyard Haven. The Bunch of Grapes is, and will always be, near and dear to my heart. It is the bookstore that made me want to be a bookseller since I was ten, and when I first heard the news that it nearly burned down last year -- I was truly devastated. They are, however, reopening this summer and my husband and I are joining my parents for the re-opening celebration!

I apologize, I've gotten a tad off-track.

So, yes, I try and shop locally, but I don't think I really "got" why it was so important until I started working at the Odyssey because admittedly, I didn't exactly "seek out" indies in NYC. If I found one, terrific, but did I go out of my way? No. I walked past that same B&N everyday to and from work and I succumbed their convenience and four floors.

I could easily go on for several pages and extrapalate on why we should all shop locally, but it's been done by others more eloquent than I am, so instead, I will link to the IndieBound page for those interested, as I have another purpose for this particular post.

Since working at the Odyssey, I've joined many of the social networking sites to help promote the store and connect with other booksellers across the country. As I do so, I'm finding more and more thriving (and by thriving I mean keep their heads above water) and wonderful independent bookstores in Manhattan and Brooklyn that I am ashamed to say I never knew of or took advantage of. I only wish that my upcoming trip to BEA this May was a day or two longer so that I could spend some time wandering around what I am sure are some terrific stores.

These stores are (and are not limited to):

Word; Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
McNally-Jackson; Soho, Manhattan (actually, I've visited this store twice, but I love it, so I had to include it.)
BookCourt; Cobble Hill, Brooklyn (my first apartment in Brooklyn was no more than 8 blocks away from BookCourt. Did I visit it often? Stupidly, no.)
BookCulture; Morningside Heights, Manhattan
The Corner Bookstore; Upper East Side, Manhattan

So, to these indie bookstores in Manhattan and Brooklyn (and the many others I've missed), my sincere apologies for not being your patron often enough during my five years in NYC and I hope to visit you all soon --- probably not all at the same time, however, cause I tend to by 1 or 2 new books for each store I visit and my husband WILL NOT be happy with me if I blow $200 on books in New York when I could have ordered them from the Odyssey with my staff discount.

Does he have a point? Absolutely. Do I care? Not really. I'm supporting my local indies! (I swear, if we ever get divorced, it'll be over my book addiction.)

Emily Russo Murtagh

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