There’s something about an independent bookstore that attracts fierce loyalty in its patrons and staff. It’s not part of a large corporate system. It’s like a second home, a personal place, owned and operated by local people. That’s a big part of its appeal.
My love of privately owned bookstores goes back to my 20s in Baltimore, when I fell in love with such a shop located not far from a theater arts school where I spent many happy hours as a student and aspiring actor. Today, I count among the joys of living where I do is the fact that I’m just a couple of miles from an independent bookstore called Flyleaf Books, a warmly inviting shop next door to a popular coffee shop and restaurant.
Deep inside today’s New York Times, one finds a story about The Strand, a beloved independent bookstore at Broadway and 12th Street in Greenwich Village that’s been in business since 1927. The city wants to honor this shop by declaring it an official city landmark.
No thanks, say The Strand’s owners, according to The Times’ report, which states that Nancy Bass Wyden, whose family has owned the bookstore for 91 years, points out that the landmark designation imposes increased restriction and regulations on buildings that are cumbersome and can drive up maintenance and renovation costs. It would be a lot more hassle, she is quoted as saying. The Times reports that owners of landmark-designated buildings in many cases are not allowed to use plans, materials and even paint colors that vary from the original design without official approval from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.
In The Times’ article, one learns that Ms. Wyden’s grandfather, Benjamin Bass, opened The Strand in 1927 on what was called “Book Row” on Fourth Street, a stretch lined with nearly 50 bookstores. Just imagine — heaven for book lovers. Her father, Ben’s son Fred Bass, ran the business until his death at 89. The family moved the shop to its present location in 1957.
The shop owners and its loyal customers just want to be left alone. I’m on their side. Next time I’m in New York, I’m heading for The Strand and some pleasant browsing and shopping.