September 9, 2014

Rizzoli Bookstore moves out of Midtown, like the rest of the NY book world


Midtown Manhattan is clearing out as bookstores and publishers head downtown. Photo via Shutterstock.

Midtown Manhattan is clearing out as bookstores and publishers head downtown. Photo via Shutterstock.

Rizzoli Bookstore looks right. It looks left. It explodes south, barreling past hotels and stops just short of the Flatiron Building on Broadway.

The bookstore closed in April 2014 with plans to reopen in a building that wasn’t about to be demolished and replaced with a high-rise. Yesterday the store announced it had official plans to reopen in NoMad, which is a silly name for a neighborhood, so let’s just agree to say it’s slightly north of the Flatiron. The Wall Street Journal  reports the owners have signed a lease at 1133 Broadway, between 25th and 26th Streets.

Midtown isn’t the epicenter of New York publishing it used to be. In 1975, New York is Book Country dominated Fifth Avenue with stock, stalls, and readers. These days our fall season doesn’t open in Manhattan—it’s moved to Melville House’s home turf in  Brooklyn, at the Borough Hall Plaza. (We’ll see you there next week.)

There have been some big moves and trades in the book world these last few years: WORD took a leap over the river last December and opened a second store in Jersey City. McNally Jackson is making a mad dash for Brooklyn. PowerHouse has already tackled a second Brooklyn location, and the owners of Community Bookstore took possession of the former Babbo’s Books in Windsor Terrace. St. Mark’s went East. 

A piece by Julie Bosman in the New York Times last March said the surging rents were threatening the lives of independent bookstores. But that’s not telling the whole story.

There have been a few losses; notably, two Shakespeare & Co. locations in Manhattan. (David L. Ulin wrote a thoughtful eulogy for the store at the end of the summer.) But for the most part, independent bookstore owners around New York are moving where their readers live: downtown, or in the boroughs.

Book retailers are, intelligently, keeping an eye out for well-trafficked, more affordable spaces like the one Rizzoli just found. Store owners report that the new space will have an equal amount of square footage, and the St. James Building, like its previous location, is a storied space. (Though it’s possible their staff is less interested in square footage and stories than a nice cup of Italian coffee down the street, at Eataly.)

The exodus from Midtown is larger than the retail world. Most major publishers shuttered their own midtown storefronts in the ’90s. They’ve since jumped around the island: HarperCollins seized some real estate after Sandy and headed to 195 Broadway, between Dey and Fulton. Hachette Book Group is headed to Columbus Circle next month. Others are sure to follow.

Media companies—CondeNast, The New York Daily News, Newsweek, American Media—have already made their moves to various buildings below Canal Street.


Kirsten Reach is an editor at Melville House.