St. Mark's Bookshop, which has recently been in discussion over a rent reduction with its landlord, Cooper Union, was told yesterday that they would not be granted that cost cut. "They'd like to rent the space for twice what we're paying," said Bob Contant, co-owner of St. Mark's Bookshop. "They're going to have to answer to the community for the decision they made. We're extremely disappointed."
Contant gave an overview of how the Manhattan bookstore came to be in this situation: "Historically, Cooper solicited us to be their tenant in 1993. They offered us a 20% less rent rate to be the tenant. We got a 15-year lease, and renewed that in 2007, and, unfortunately, the economy crashed in 2008. That's had a tremendous effect on us."
The decline in sales for St. Mark's began in 2008, and according to Contant, reached a low point in August of this year, when sales were "dismal." Instead of going back to talk to Cooper Union, Contant and St. Mark's went to Cooper Square Committee, which has a history of helping small businesses, including saving a grocery store on 2nd Avenue from becoming an NYU dorm. Cooper Square Committee "immediatly suggested a petition to save St. Mark's, and they put it up that very day. We were getting 5,000 signatures a day."
From there, the bookstore saw "much improved" sales in September and October. "We were on the verge in August," said Contant. "If things hadn't turned around, I'm not sure we'd be having this conversation right now."
Contant said they're looking at the seven remaining years on their lease as seven years to find a new space. "We were told yesterday that we wouldn't be able to afford a renewal on our lease."
"For the last two months here, peopple have come in and bought books," Contant said, citing "tremendous success" with The Marriage Plot, the Steve Jobs biography, and 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, which sold 36 copies for its release midnight on Monday, when the store stayed open and patrons lined up outside. St. Mark's is hoping the recent surge in sales will continue, and, if it does, it will give the store time to find a new home. Contant reiterated a number of times how much the support has meant to the store. "We're appreciative of all the support we've received."