The Strand Book Store, an iconic institution in Greenwich Village for nearly a century, opens a new chapter next month when it expands to the Upper West Side.
In business since 1927, at East 12th St. and Broadway, two blocks south of Union Square, the Strand will be taking over the space at 450 Columbus Ave. previously occupied by Book Culture, which shut down last month after struggling to pay more than $100,000 in back rent.
Strand owner Nancy Bass Wyden is eager to make the move uptown. “We are so excited to expand the Strand and engage the community of the Upper West Side,” Bass Wyden wrote on Facebook. “We aim to continue the legacy of my father, and his father before him, by bringing the joy of books to everyone.”
A Family Business
The Strand was founded by Bass Wyden’s grandfather, Ben Bass and was part of what was then called “Book Row,” which covered six blocks and housed 48 bookstores.
The Strand quickly became a Village staple where writers went to converse, sell their books and find a hidden treasure to buy. Bass passed the love of the store onto his son Fred, who ran the business for several decades.
According to Bass Wyden, her grandfather and father worked 10 hours a day six days a week and passed that passion onto her.
Bass Wyden, now 58, began working at the Strand when she was 25. “It always felt like a magical place,” she said. “It feels like I grew up at the Strand.”
As bookstores have been dying all over the city, Bass Wyden said she has mixed feelings about being one of the few remaining ones. Seeing Book Culture and Papyrus shutter their doors breaks her heart, she said.
Giving Readers What They Want
But the Strand’s longstanding roots in the community have allowed it to thrive. And as times changed the store adapted and used the internet to its advantage. “We knew we had to get on the internet,” said Bass Wyden. “We had no inventory online at first. We love it as a communications tool.”
The Strand carries over 2.5 million new, used and rare books, covering a wide range of topics. “Our mission is to put good books in our hands of readers,” Bass Wyden said. “I think people always like to shop. People want to go to their book -loving community.”
Its in-store events feature writers like Patti Smith and political strategist Rick Wilson, as well as panel discussions, such as one later this month celebrating the life and work of Zora Neale Huston.
Bass Wyden told Straus News she had been looking to expand and when she heard about the recent closure of Book Culture, she knew it was the perfect opportunity. It helped that the landlord was looking for another bookstore to take over the space.
“I feel really honored,” she said. “What I do is obviously a passion. We want to serve the community and put our own Strand spin on it. When I hear how excited the community is that we’re coming to the Upper West Side, it’s just so heartwarming.”