East Village Residents Battling To Save Beloved St. Mark’s Bookshop

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Neighbors in the East Village are coming together, battling to save a beloved bookshop. It is on the verge of closing, but not if they can help it.

For 35 years the St. Mark’s Bookshop has been serving the community. But now, a bad economy may close the book on the neighborhood treasure.

“To me the bookstore is a reflection of the community,” said Terry McCoy, co-owner of the shop, told CBS 2’s Vanessa Murdock.

“This is a calling. Without bookstores there is only the Internet,” said co-owner Bob Contant.

Business over the last three years has gone downhill.

“You wondered had you lost all of your support,” said McCoy.

To make ends meet, the St. Mark’s co-owners have done all they can think of to cut costs, including cutting their own salaries and living on their Social Security benefits.

They’ve asked the owner of the building – The Cooper Union – to reduce their rent by 25 percent, from $20,000 TO $15,000 per month. They say it is a necessity to keep their business going.

“Everybody sacrifices and we’re asking them to sacrifice a little bit too,” Contant said.

The community is rallying behind the independent book store. About 40,000 people have signed a petition to keep it at the location.

The petition was started by the Cooper Square Committee – an organization dedicated to preserving the community’s identity.

“We’re tired of seeing these small mom & pop businesses on the Lower East Side disappearing,” said Joyce Ravitz, of the committee.

Many people that spoke to Murdock agreed.

“It’s not a Starbucks, it’s not a Barnes & Noble and it really makes a difference in my quality of life in the East Village,” said Marla Rosental.

St. Mark’s Bookshop owner Terry McCoy suggests the best way to save the store is for customers to just buy a book or a magazine. Individuals don’t have to spend much to keep St. Mark’s open.

Share your thoughts in the comments section below…

  • Nick

    If it’s so “beloved”, why didn’t they buy things there and keep it profitable? “Beloved” my arse.

  • APT

    1. Let’s not even equate Cooper and NYU… Cooper gives out FULL TUITION scholarships and barely squeaks by because their real estate portfolio and endowment has been decimated first, post 9/11 and then again, post 2008, and unlike NYU they have a tiny alumni base spread out over art, architecture and engineering… not exactly high income occupations flush with donation money. I went there and trust me, it’s not a bunch of entitled kids living an “Olsen Twins go to college” lifestyle. At any given point, even with a scholarship, half of the art school subsists on a diet of ketchup packets and hot water (i.e. “soup”) and it’s not because they’re trying to maintain a figure… To be honest if I have to pick between Cooper losing money and this store shutting down, I’d pick the school any day. Sorry, but something about this whole notion of people (frequently first generation Americans) with very little money and a lot of brain and talent having an opportunity to get a free education just really appeals to me.

    2. Back to the store though… Having lived in the EV for a long time, I’ve always really wanted to like this store, but I can’t. In reality, it’s just not that great. Their books are highly edited to suit a particular type of reader with a very narrow scope of interest and their prices are inflated to a level of Barnes & Noble, so from an average customer point of view, there’s very little reason to come in. The last time I was there, I spent 30 minutes looking for ANYTHING to buy, and genuinely struggled to find something of value. If St. Marks Boookstore wants to stay open, they shouldn’t frame their situation as an issue of big versus small, but should look inward and see how they can adjust: e.g. Strand is independent, 5 mins away and is flourishing. For the last 10 years, almost every book that I have purchased has come from there. I’ve spent thousands of dollars in Strand and will continue to do so, because whenever I walk in to pick up the book that I want, I find at least 4 random others that I didn’t even know existed, and I don’t leave there feeling like someone has just raped my wallet. I’m all for the little guy, but the little guy has to be for me too. It’ll be very sad and unfortunate if/ when this store closes and gets replaced by what I’m sure will be some sort of an eatery, but I don’t think anyone will really be surprised by it.

  • lettie

    Cooper U needs the rent money to keep all of those scholarships afloat. They already lose money on the residential hall, which they only put in recently for the freshmen’s sakes. If the entire student body is on scholarship, then this unfortunately seems like a casualty of the economy. Hate on Cooper because they’re a bit annoying (I just graduated so I know the lengths to which this is true), but they already are over-extended financially and so can’t shoulder the blame

  • lettie

    Cooper U needs the rent money to keep all of those scholarships afloat. They already lose money on the residential hall, which they only put in recently for the freshmen’s sakes. If the entire student body is on scholarship, then this unfortunately seems like a casualty of the economy. Hate on Cooper because they’re a bit annoying (I just graduated), but they already are over-extended financially

  • EBJ

    This Real Estate greed in NYC is completely out of control. No town planning we residents in mind. Everything in this neighborhood, where I live, that gives the commujnty needed service, class and indentityi has been chased outm forced to close because of Corporate, Big Franchise greed . NYU and Cooper Union places of higher learning and who should display better judgeme are among the chief offenders. Small intimate coffees shops where neighbours meet have been forced out. Small establishments. that give area some class identity and distiincttion like a small hat shop (20 yrs) beside McSorleys Ale House are being forced out because of super exorbitant unaffordable lease.. Soon no building in this area will have any history or pedigree. All will be built yesterday. And we pay a lot of money to go to Europe and UK to gawk at old quaint buildings.,that we wreck here. A community needs small buinesses they supply a necessary service..

  • TP

    Bloomberg and the corporations have doomed NYC. It’s turning into a land of banks, drug stores, and high end shops. Bloomie congested streets with his little parks and traffic islands – little wonder there was snow removal problems. Time to leave the island.

  • Love NYC

    Ask the OWS folks for a donation. They are against greed. They have received some money and they certainly would like to help a struggling, independent book store.

  • larry richardson

    Cooper Union and NYU own everything in the area. GREED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Groupius

    New York City is not for intelligent people anymore it is for
    Banks,Drugstores.Nail salons and bars ,
    Shame on Cooper Union for raising the rent to force a NYC treasure to
    close for probably another upscale restaurant ot one of the above.

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