Recent press has spotlighted a lease negotiation between St. Mark’s Bookshop, the independent bookstore on Third Avenue between 8th and 9th Streets and its lease holder, the Cooper Union. St. Mark’s Bookshop won a 2007 Village Award for providing specialized titles in a community-friendly atmosphere for over thirty years. As one of our truly special Village places, we thought we would take this opportunity to spotlight the store. Terry McCoy and Bob Contant, owners of St. Mark’s, answer our most pressing questions.
St. Mark’s Bookshop has been in business since 1977. You must have seen a lot of changes in the neighborhood over the years. What’s the biggest change that stands out for you?
The biggest change is the demise of affordable housing—young people starting out in the arts cannot afford to live here.
St. Mark’s Bookshop offers off-beat periodicals, journals, and small press books – many titles you won’t find in other bookstores. What influenced your decision to stock the less conventional?
In 1977, bookstores in the Village were plentiful. To set ourselves apart, we created niche markets in philosophy, poetry, small press literature, politics, and critical theory. Our clientele expects to find the latest intellectual trends represented.
What’s one of the biggest challenges for an independent bookstore today?
Maintaining its identity. Responding to electronic media. Providing full service to its customers.
What is your favorite place in the Village (besides your store, of course)?
St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery – home to many arts projects. (Editor’s note: The church is one of our favorite places too. GVSHP’s offices are located in the Neighborhood Preservation Center, the historic Ernest Flagg Rectory at the St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery landmark site. In addition, the Church was awarded a Village Award in 1993.)
We know how important this store is to the community. What does your location mean to you?
Our location provides us with high visibility. We’re at the crossroads of Cooper Union and New York University. We’re also a block or two from major subway lines. And we’re at the gateway to the historic arts scene of the East Village.
St. Mark’s Bookshop is a wonderful asset to the Village. If you agree, stop in the store and make a purchase. Our small, independent shops need us as much as we need them.