For the past two years St. Mark’s Bookshop has been trying to either work out an arrangement with its landlord, The Cooper Union, to stay in its current location in the East Village in New York City at lower rent or to find an affordable location and move. Now the bookstore is on the cusp of a major fundraising campaign that would allow it to leave early in 2014 with four years remaining on its lease. On Thursday evening December 5, St. Mark’s will hold an auctio--in the store and online--of signed first editions donated by a number of notable writers, including Ann Carson, Lydia Davis, and Paul Auster. Swann Auction House will host.
But that is only one piece of the store’s fundraising plans so that it can stay in the East Village in a space near Avenue A and Third Street. The president of Cooper Union has offered to help the bookstore by letting it use the school’s Great Hall for a fundraiser and to contact some of the schools’s donors on the store’s behalf. Those details are still being worked out.
The new St. Mark’s location would be about half of the store’s current size, or 1,300 sq. ft. Co-owner Bob Contant regards the store’s downsizing as a good thing. “The print book business isn’t as robust as it used to be,” he points out. “Where we sold 25 books, now we sell five.”
At the same time St. Mark’s is moving forward with its plans to become what Contant refers to as “a hybrid store like Kepler’s.” He’s working on continuing to sell books on a for-profit basis while setting up a not-for-profit arm for events.