Sometimes bookstore chains and independents can coexist in the same neighborhood, as BookCourt in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill proves. The store, which began as a 500-sq.-ft. storefront in 1981, is about to expand for the third time, from 1,800 sq. ft. to between 3,300 and 3,600 sq. ft. It takes its name from its Court Street location and is just a few blocks from a Barnes & Noble.
With its old-fashioned double storefront and wooden bookshelves and floor, BookCourt has a homespun charm that distinguishes it from its nearby competitor. It also offers aggressive discounts to keep customers coming back—10% off all hardcovers, 15% off audiobooks and 20% off store bestsellers. And it is the exclusive seller of Patchwork Planet (Soft Skull Press), set in Brooklyn and created by Brooklynites Kate Milford and Jonathan Lethem.
Over the past 26 years, BookCourt’s founders and owners, Henry Zook and Mary Gannett, have grown the store from one storefront to two and turned a dirt-floor basement into selling space. That left only an 1880s greenhouse behind one of the storefronts for the current expansion. Last month Gannett and Zook took down the greenhouse and are building a new structure that, when the back wall is knocked down, will connect it to the rest of the store. The project is scheduled to be completed by September 1.
According to manager Zack Zook, Gannett and Zook’s 23-year-old son, BookCourt will have a much larger events space that can seat 300 people and accommodate another 200 standing, as well as a significantly larger children’s area. For the first time, says Zook, BookCourt will carry used books, sale books and remainder titles, which will be displayed downstairs. Nonfiction, which had been housed in the basement, will come upstairs, and children’s books will go from the back of the store to one of the storefronts. Literary fiction, the store’s most popular area will also be up front.