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Rent Increase Drives Book Shop to Close

25 October 2018

From Crain’s New York:

The Drama Book Shop, known for its exhaustive collection of plays and books on theater and as hallowed ground for the Broadway set, will shutter its store at 250 W. 40th St. early next year. Its owners hope to reopen—likely in a smaller space—elsewhere in the Theater District or nearby.

The decision came after what has become an increasingly common death knell for beloved businesses across the city: a sharp rent increase. The 100-year-old bookstore’s lease for the space it has occupied for almost 20 years expires at the end of January.

While some retail businesses around the city have been surprised by rent spikes handed to them by their landlords, Allen Hubby, a vice president at the bookshop whose aunt, Rozanne Seelen, has owned the store for several decades, said they had expected its time in the space to come to an end at the close of its lease.

Recent rent escalations for the space have brought its monthly bill to about $20,000, Hubby said, a price it was already struggling to pay.

“We knew it was getting too expensive,” Hubby said. “It’s hard to cover a $20,000 rent when most of the books you offer only cost about $10. Not to mention salaries, the costs of buying the books, electricity, taxes. We can’t afford it.”

. . . .

The landlord of the building had initially proposed a 50% rent increase for the bookshop to renew its lease, Hubby said, terming the offer a nonstarter.

“At this point that’s already so far out of the reality of our situation,” Hubby said. “We didn’t expect that the landlord would agree to reduce our rent, which is really what we need.”

. . . .

In the Drama Book Shop’s case, rent increases have not been the shop’s only woes. Sometimes shoppers will come into the store and use the expertise of its staff to find books or plays, Hubby said, only to leave and buy the merchandise online.

“Most of the things we sell you can now get on Amazon, and although people often don’t realize it, we actually sell most of our items for lower prices,” Hubby said. “It’s bad for everyone, except Amazon.”

Link to the rest at Crain’s New York

PG says the OP notes the human side of every small business and the tragedies and disappointments involved with a business failure or major financial setback.

PG notes that a bookstore is a public business and when it fails or closes, many people are likely to notice. An author operates a much less public business and when an author fails and can’t afford to be a full-time or even part-time author any more, business publications are unlikely to write stories about the business closure, but the personal disappointment and even tragedy can still be the same.

In each case, it’s the loss of a cherished dream which has consumed untold hours of work and an individual passion that is ultimately frustrated at great emotional cost.

As PG has mentioned uncounted times before, indie publishing through Amazon, Kobo and others has allowed countless authors to afford to continue their life’s passions when the traditional publishing business structure would have resulted in failure, both financially and, even more important, emotionally.

Bookstores

7 Comments to “Rent Increase Drives Book Shop to Close”

  1. I’ve read enough of these now that whenever the word “beloved” is applied, my BS meter pegs.

  2. Even more interesting would be a follow-up in three years about what replaced the bookstore, how it is doing, and whether it is beloved by its customers.

  3. I’m hearing Gomer Pile’s ‘Surprise surprise surprise’ …

  4. Ashe Elton Parker

    The OP clearly doesn’t realize that this or any other bookshop is free to move into an area where the rent is lower. Provided they have the capital, such a move would prevent their permanent closure. Also, the bookshop apparently made little to no effort of informing browsers that their books are not only right there for the purchasing, but also cheaper than those that could be found online. Because, personally, if I’m looking for a print book and I’m right there in a bookshop that has what I want at a reasonable price, I’ll buy from the b&m shop instead of ordering online, paying for shipping, and waiting for days to get the book.

    Oh, yeah, but then OP couldn’t lament the loss of their “beloved” bookshop.

  5. An author operates a much less public business and when an author fails and can’t afford to be a full-time or even part-time author any more, business publications are unlikely to write stories about the business closure, but the personal disappointment and even tragedy can still be the same.

    Yes! Thank you, PG. Well said.

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