Bank Street Bookstore, a Manhattan mainstay of children’s bookselling, has announced that the store will close in August after half a century in operation. In an e-mail to customers on Wednesday, manager Caitlyn Morrissey wrote that the sustained closing of the store to customers during the coronavirus outbreak, along with the ongoing need for social distancing, proved too difficult to combat.
Bank Street opened in 1970 in the lobby of the Bank Street College of Education and expanded to a large two-story space on Broadway in 1990. The store’s location and connection to ideas around children’s education made it a hub for interested readers and an essential stop for authors and illustrators. Judy Blume, Kate DiCamillo, Jules Feiffer, Cornelia Funke, and Jon Scieszka all read at the store, among many others, as did celebrities Stephen Colbert and Julianne Moore.
For a quarter century, the store was managed by Beth Puffer, who presided over its growth through the 1990s and 2000s, and used that knowledge to help shape the children’s bookselling trade in America. Puffer helped found the New York/New Jersey Booksellers Association, and served on the board of the American Booksellers Association, as well as serving as treasurer for the Association of Booksellers for Children.
High rents forced Puffer’s successor, Andy Laties, to move the store to a nearby location half its size in 2015. Laties, who managed the store for more than five years, told PW, “Bank Street Bookstore is a major New York City institution. It is disturbing to see it closed especially at a moment when parents and teachers are in such need of this exact kind of assistance at creating curricula at home and in innovative educational settings.”
Laties recalled a conversation he had with literary agent and former editor Brenda Bowen when he first began at the store. “Brenda told me she always shopped in Bank Street Bookstore each season in order to familiarize herself with the total output of the world of children’s publishing,” he said. “That’s because Bank Street bought very broadly and comprehensively, attempting to represent all the new books, and to be a bookstore where everything new and good could definitely be found by the demanding customer base we had nurtured.”
The 2015 move to the new location also halved the store’s rent, which placed it on firmer footing in recent years, but the sustained impact of the coronavirus shutdown ultimately took too great a toll. Bank Street is not the only NYC store to shutter due to the virus’s impact; last month, Brooklyn’s Stories Bookshop and Storytelling Lab also permanently closed its doors, though web sales continue through the store.
In their e-mail to customers, Morrissey wrote, “As the book industry continues to navigate this time, we encourage you to support independent bookstores in any way you can…. Thank you to all who have visited the Bank Street Bookstore over the years. Our staff has loved watching our neighborhood’s children grow up. We will miss you deeply.”