Still-Struggling St. Mark's Bookshop Hunting for Smaller Space

By Serena Solomon on July 3, 2012 12:59pm 

The St. Mark's Bookshop on Third Avenue and Stuyvesant Street.
The St. Mark's Bookshop on Third Avenue and Stuyvesant Street.
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Flickr/Sarmale / O.

EAST VILLAGE — After a battle to secure a rent reduction at its longtime store, the St. Mark's Bookshop is now shopping for a new space.

The local favorite at Third Avenue and East Ninth Street — which became a cause célèbre last year after a petition to save the shop from a rent increase garnered tens of thousands of supporters — is hoping to find an even cheaper space for about $10,000 a month, compared to its current rate of $17,500.

The struggling bookseller, which has been around for more than 35 years, ultimately received rent relief from landlord Cooper Union following the community's advocacy effort to save the shop.

"We would move tomorrow if we could find a place," said store co-owner Bob Contant, of the news first reported by Crain's New York.

The move is likely to occur early next year to avoid rent escalations built into its contract with the college, he said. 

The store currently sits on 2,700 feet of retail space, including an office in the basement. This would ideally be reduced to about 2,000 square feet at the new location, Contant said.

The office would also move with the retail space, but there are not yet plans for how the new layout might look, he added.

"We have canvassed the neighborhood," Contant said, adding that he is hoping the store will still call the East Village home after the planned move. He is currently looking for a real estate agent to help with finding the next location.

Cooper Union agreed in November to reduce the store's rent from $20,000 to $17,500 a month. St. Mark's Bookshop had originally asked for a $5,000 break in rent.

Cooper Union also pardoned $7,500 in debt it held over the bookstore.

However, beginning next year, the built-in rent escalations would push the bookstore over its budget, according to Contant. He declined to discuss how much the increases are set to be. 

"We are in a dangerous situation," he explained.

The shop is currently in the running for a $250,000 grant from Chase Bank that would help pay for the move. If this is unsuccessful, Contant said the shop would look into other fundraising options.

A St. Mark's Bookshop customer, Francoise Letondeux, browses the bookshelves on a recent evening.
A St. Mark's Bookshop customer, Francoise Letondeux, browses the bookshelves on a recent evening.
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DNAinfo/Serena Solomon

"Short of somebody investing," he said, "I don’t know what is going to happen."

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