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St. Mark’s Bookshop Fights for Life

IMG_0008Khristopher J. BrooksSt. Mark’s Bookshop, 31 Third Avenue.

News that an old friend is seriously ill is sure to darken the day. Concern and sympathy are mingled with hopes for recovery as well as thoughts of one’s own precarious grasp on life. Those of us who love books to the point of distraction grapple with a similar set of emotions when a fondly visited bookstore shows signs of slipping away.

It can’t happen; it shouldn’t be allowed; and what about me? Where else can I go?

Robert Contant who, with partner Terence McCoy, is co-owner of St. Mark’s Bookshop on the corner of Third Avenue and Stuyvesant Street, blames his customers somewhat for the store’s current frailty. He has seen them browse through the store, then scan the barcode of a likely purchase with their smartphone only to discover they can order it more cheaply from, or from other online vendors which don’t bear the real estate and staff costs of running a brick and mortar store in a well-trafficked city neighborhood.

Mr. Contant hastens to explain that he speaks in sorrow, not in anger. “It’s hard to tell people not to save money,” he says, especially these days. “We’re not blaming them. We’re not trying to be punitive.” Nevertheless, anyone who has seen a book on the shelves of St. Mark’s, then purchased it online, should feel a pang of guilt reading the notice recently posted in the store window: “Find it here, buy it here, keep us here.”
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