At the Bookstore, an Exciting Path AheadPosted by Andrew Laties on June 08, 2012
Six weeks ago I inherited management of the Bank Street Bookstore from my esteemed colleague Beth Puffer. During her decades of service, Beth placed millions of children’s books into the hands of young readers, and myriad professional books into the hands of teachers. Meanwhile, since 1985, I had been selling books at my own stores: The Children’s Bookstore and Chicago Children’s Museum Store in Chicago, and The Eric Carle Museum Bookstore in Amherst. When the chance came for me to step into Beth’s shoes, I was excited and nervous. The bookstore she had developed for Bank Street College was famous worldwide. Could I rise to the challenge?
A challenge it certainly is. This place is busy and its operations are complex. Over the last few weeks alone, we have:
- Shipped $500 worth of professional education books to a teacher in Copenhagen, and $500 worth to another teacher in Istanbul. Both had selected their books while passing through New York, and for both the visit to Bank Street Bookstore was a long-anticipated event.
- Supplied 60 boxes of books to Ethical Culture School for their Spring book fair.
- Hosted six first-time authors in a joint publicity event.
- Held a book signing with Stephen Colbert for his not-quite-children’s-book, I Am A Pole (And So Can You!).
- Built a custom online gift registry to enable anyone to become a donor of LGBT books to New York Public Schools; we’re performing this book-supply service as underpinning for the New York City Council LGBT Educational Book Drive.
Meanwhile, all day long parents and children throng the store. Our young customers of course act as if Bank Street Bookstore is a natural part of childhood’s landscape, and do not realize how fortunate they are to be growing up near such a resource. Why doesn’t every town have a wonderful children’s bookstore?
Back in 1989 there were 500 specialty children’s bookstores in America; today there are fewer than 100. Bank Street Bookstore survived and grew during the 1990s national collapse in independent bookselling—and during this past decade’s incredible run-up in Manhattan rents—for one reason only: because the store’s parent, Bank Street College, invested in that growth and even stepped in at key junctures to subsidize operating losses.
In similar circumstances, other colleges closed their bookstores or outsourced to national chains, but Bank Street College’s leaders understood that the bookstore Beth Puffer was nurturing and growing on their behalf had become a world treasure—a cultural landmark—and was being heavily used by a gigantic and devoted constituency. This bookstore carried the Bank Street College mission far and wide, and deserved to be given every opportunity to continue that service even in the face of financial challenges.
As the new manager here a central aspect of my task is to find a way to ensure that Bank Street Bookstore continues to survive and thrive while reducing the financial burden it can sometimes represent for the College. After all, a dollar fed to prop up the Bookstore is a dollar not available for tuition aid to students. And I do believe that this Bookstore can avoid depending on the College for financial help. We’re redeveloping our website, launching an aggressive marketing campaign, and extending our store hours: I have great hopes that by making our terrific book collection and outstanding staff of children’s literature experts available during hours that are more convenient to the enormous number of busy New York families and tourists, Bank Street Bookstore can garner enough extra business to pay all our own bills.
So tell your friends: Bank Street Bookstore is now open very early and very late, almost every day. Please make us your first choice.
Bank Street Bookstore
Located at Broadway and 112th Street
- Monday-Tuesday: 8am-7pm
- Wednesday-Saturday: 8am-10pm
- Sunday: 10am-7pm