New York City-based Shakespeare & Co. will to open a 2,300 sq.-ft. location in Brookfield Place, a retail mall in lower Manhattan in January 2020. “The store will be on the smaller side,” said Dane Neller, the CEO of Shakespeare & Co. “The big appeal for us is the access we will have to using the Winter Garden [the mall’s public area]. It can hold hundreds of people and will let us host grander book talks than ever before.” The Brookfield Place location will be the bookseller’s fifth, in addition to two existing locations on Manhattan, one on the Upper East Side, another on the Upper West Side, a forthcoming store in Greenwich Village, and another in Philadelphia.
Neller said that the company has expanded rapidly because it is optimistic about the future of bookselling. “The indie bookstore business has been been strong and accelerating over the past five years," he said. "Because of that we feel we have wind in our sails and are continuing to grow.” In addition, the loosening of the real estate market has given the retailer additional opportunities. “I think landlords see that bookstores are good tenants. Bookstores are low impact, but also serve as cultural and community hubs that attracts a customer who tends to browse in other stores as well.”
Each Shakespeare & Co. location features a cafe, as well as an Espresso Book Machine. Neller and his partner in the bookstores, Jason Epstein, own On Demand Media, which produce the machines.
“We’ve learned several things over time and are getting better at the process of opening stores,” said Neller, citing their ability to more efficiently predict the number of seats needed in the cafes and other other logistical concerns. As for the Espresso machines, Neller said they are “especially useful in creating bonds with the community,” whether it is producing books by a local memoirist or used to print a customized book for a child. Or, as was the case last month, “printing copies of the Mueller report.” Neller declined to reveal the exact number sold of the report, but said it was “in the hundreds.”
Neller, who served for eight years as CEO of upscale food retailer Dean & Deluca, said “in-store experience is very important to me and we pay attention to the organic elements that go into that.” As for what differentiates the stores from the indie competitors, he cited the store’s strong branding and its advanced technology. “Our motto is ‘cafe, machine and bookstore,’ he said,“but not necessarily in that order.”
Neller said that customers see Shakespeare & Co. locations as a “cultural refuge” in their communities, where they can “sit in the cafe, have a coffee and work on their computer and not be rushed” or else shop for "books and interact with the well-trained and educated staff."
"That is the value proposition," he said.