Strand Bookstore

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Coordinates: 40°44′00″N 73°59′27″W / 40.7333°N 73.9908°W / 40.7333; -73.9908

Strand Bookstore
Founded1927 (1927)
FounderBenjamin Bass
United States
Number of locations
1 stores, 2 kiosks, 1 pop-up
Area served
New York metropolitan area
ProductsNew, used and rare books
OwnerNancy Bass Wyden
Number of employees

The Strand Bookstore is an independent bookstore located at 828 Broadway, at the corner of East 12th Street in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, two blocks south of Union Square.[1][2] In addition to the main location, the store has kiosks in Central Park and Times Square.[3] The company's slogan is "18 Miles Of Books," as featured on its stickers, T-shirts, and other merchandise. In 2016, The New York Times called The Strand "the undisputed king of the city’s independent bookstores."[4]


The Strand is a family-owned business with more than 230 employees.[5] Many notable New York City artists have worked at the store, including rock musicians of the 1970s: Patti Smith – who claimed not to have liked the experience because it "wasn't very friendly"[6] – and Tom Verlaine,[7] who was fond of the discount book carts sitting outside the store.[8] Other celebrity employees include Richard Hell,[7] Neil Winokur, Adam Bellow,[9] Sam Shephard, Mary Gaitskill, Burt Britton, Luc Sante, Marvin Mondlin, Ken Schles, and Thomas Weatherly Jr.

The Strand has had a unionized workforce for over 35 years.[10] On April 5, 2012, unionized workers at the store rejected a new contract;[11] on June 15, 2012, workers ratified a new contract.[12]

Besides the main store and Central Park kiosk, an additional location called the "Strand Book Annex" opened in the 1980s and was originally located on Front Street in the South Street Seaport complex. It moved in 1996 to Fulton and Gold Streets in the Financial District, but finally closed on September 22, 2008 due to rent increases.[13] A branch in the Flatiron District opened in 2013, and a summer kiosk in Times Square opened in 2016.[14] In 2020 The Strand's planned opening of its Upper West Side location was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[15]

The Strand's basement holds its collection of review copies of recently published books

In 2005, the main store underwent a major renovation and expansion, with the addition of an elevator, air conditioning, and a re-organization of the floors to make browsing easier for shoppers. It also began to sell discounted new books and non-book merchandise.[14]

The bookstore had 70,000 books in its early years, which increased by the mid-1960s to 500,000. By the 1990s it had 2.5 million books, which necessitated the renting of a warehouse in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. At that time, the oldest book for sale in the Strand was an edition of Magna Moralia, which was priced at $4,500. The most expensive book is a copy of James Joyce's Ulysses at $38,000.[16] While the store continues to boast the slogan, "18 miles of books," they now house over "23 miles" of books.[17]


Benjamin Bass was an emigrant from Lithuania who came to the United States when he was 17. He worked as a messenger, salesman and subway construction worker before he came across the used-book district on Fourth Avenue between Astor Place and Union Square.[18] His first bookstore was the Pelican Book Shop on Eighth Street near Greene Street. However, the store was not a success, and Bass[14] next opened the Strand – named after the street in London[16] – in 1927 with $300 in his own savings and $300 he borrowed; early on, he slept on a cot in the store.[14] The new store was able to survive the Depression by use of Bass's extensive network of contacts. Furthermore, his landlord was the last of the city's noted Stuyvesant family, and he carried the store through its lean years when Bass could not pay his rent; Bass later paid back the debt, and agreed to a schedule of voluntary rent increases during rent controls which were instituted with World War II. After rent controls ended, the Stuyvesant interests doubled the rents on their other properties, but not on the Strand.[18]

Fred Bass in 2013

The Strand was then located on Fourth Avenue, which had at the time 48 bookstores, in what was known as "Book Row", which was established as early as 1890.[4] These started to disappear around the 1930s due to the Great Depression and again in the 1950s, due to rent increases.[16]

Benjamin Bass died in 1978.[18]

Bass's son Fred – who started working in the store on weekends when he was 13 years old[14] – took over the business in 1956 and the next year moved the store to the present location at the corner of East 12th Street and Broadway.[4][14] The store expanded to the entire first floor of the building, and then first three floors in the 1970s.[14] In 1996 Bass bought the building at East 12th Street and Broadway for $8.2 million, by which time the Strand was the largest used bookstore in the world.[19][14] The store now occupies three and a half floors, with another one and half floors for offices.[4][16]

Strand also has two kiosks, one in Times Square and one in Central Park, and has a pop-up location in the Artists & Fleas market in Soho. They also participate in seasonal holiday markets in Union Square, Bryant Park, and Columbus Circle[3].

Bass's daughter Nancy Bass Wyden, the current owner of the Strand, began helping in the store at age 6, sharpening pencils for staff.[20] At 16, she began taking phone requests, working the cash register, and managing the store’s Central Park kiosks.[21] After receiving her MBA from the University of Wisconsin and working briefly for Exxon, she returned to New York City to work for her father at The Strand.[14] Wyden officially joined The Strand as a manager in 1986. She established the store’s Books by the Foot department, curating custom book collections and private libraries.[22] She spearheaded major renovations and expansions of the store in 2005, and supervised the rollout of The Strand’s official bookish merchandise, including t-shirts and totes, which now account for over 15% of the business’s revenue.[23]

Wyden become the co-owner of the store on her father's retirement in November 2017. With her father's death in January 2018, she is now the sole owner.[14]

Wyden is married to United States Senator for Oregon, Ron Wyden,[24] whom she met while on a trip to Portland to see Powell's Books.[25]

Fight against landmarking

In December 2018, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission held a hearing on the topic of designating The Strand as a city landmark.[26] Owner Nancy Bass Wyden objected and campaigned heavily against the designation, citing regulatory barriers to proposed renovations and increased costs of running the business as obstacles to running her independent business; she also contrasted the treatment of her store to the reception of Amazon HQ2 in New York, saying "I’m not asking for money or a tax rebate, just leave me alone."[5][27][28] The commission voted to landmark the building on June 11, stating that it had "lost very few buildings" to mismanagement.[29][30] The landmarking can be appealed to the New York City Council.

In popular culture

  • The Strand has been featured in films such as Six Degrees of Separation, Julie & Julia and Remember Me, starring Robert Pattinson, who played a Strand employee.[31]
  • The Strand can be seen from the room of Professor Wutheridge in The Bishop's Wife (1948).
  • The Strand is featured in the third episode of the miniseries Flesh and Bone.
  • The band Steely Dan "name-checks" the Strand in their song "What A Shame About Me" from the album Two Against Nature.
  • Joyce Carol Oates' short story, "Three Girls", takes place at the Strand.
  • The Strand was referenced on Gilmore Girls in the season four episode "Ballrooms and Biscotti", when Rory and Lorelai discuss a daytrip to New York City, before Rory starts college.
  • The Strand was a backdrop for part of the novel Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn.
  • One of the short stories in the book Bad Behavior: Stories by Mary Gaitskill features a girl named Daisy who works at the Strand.
  • The Strand was featured on the BBC television series Absolutely Fabulous in the 2002 Christmas Special "Gay"
  • In the Sex and the City episode, "The Freak Show", Carrie Bradshaw shops the book carts outside the Strand.
  • In the 2011 film Arthur, the titular character visits the store.
  • The Strand is the location of a chase in the movie The House on Carroll Street.
  • In the episode "Expectation" of The Romanoffs, the characters visit the store.
  • The store and owner Nancy Bass Wyden were featured in the 2020 documentary The Booksellers, chronicling the antique book trade.[32]

See also


  1. ^ "Strand History" Archived 2020-03-30 at the Wayback Machine on the Strand Bookstore website
  2. ^ Leopold, Todd (September 12, 2011) "The death and life of a great American bookstore", CNN
  3. ^ a b "Hours & Locations" on the Strand Book Store website
  4. ^ a b c d Correal, Annie (July 15, 2016) "Want to Work in 18 Miles of Books? First, the Quiz" The New York Times
  5. ^ a b Kilgannon, Corey (December 3, 2018). "Declare the Strand Bookstore a City Landmark? No Thanks, the Strand Says". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 13, 2019.
  6. ^ Milzoff, Rebecca (November 27, 2005) "Patti Smith Discusses Her Influences" New York
  7. ^ a b Mengaziol, Peter (November 1981) "Tom Verlaine Plays with the Focus", Guitar World
  8. ^ Kim, Jane (ndg) Television on Print: "A literary conversation with Tom Verlaine", Dusted
  9. ^ Zoepf, Katherine (December 17, 2003) "Reading Room - In defense of nepotism"
  10. ^ Staff (March 16, 2012) "At the Strand Bookstore, a Retail Labor Struggle in the Age of Amazon and Occupy" Metrofocus (WNET)
  11. ^ Samuelson, Tracey (April 5, 2012) "Strand Bookstore Workers Reject Contract" Archived 2013-04-24 at the Wayback Machine WNYC blog
  12. ^ Krauthamer, Diane (July 18, 2012) "In New York Bookstore Contract Fight, Occupy Helped Workers Draw Energy, Media Spotlight " Truthout
  13. ^ Woodman, James S. (June 27, 2008) "Stranded by construction, book store will close its doors" Downtown Express
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Grimes, William (January 3, 2018) "Fred Bass, Who Made the Strand Bookstore a Mecca, Dies at 89" The New York Times
  15. ^ Quinn, Anna (April 27, 2020) "Strand Bookstore Finds A Way To Sell Online Amid Coronavirus"
  16. ^ a b c d Wolfe, Jonathan (June 27, 2017) "New York Today: Celebrating the Strand" The New York Times
  17. ^ Capewell, Jillian (November 28, 2017). "How A 90-Year-Old Bookstore Got Into The Business Of Totes". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2019-01-31.
  18. ^ a b c Thomas, Robert Mcg. Jr. (August 2, 1978). "Benjamin Bass, 77, Was Founder Of the Strand Used‐Book Store". The New York Times. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
  19. ^ Hagerty, James (January 19, 2018). "Owner of New York's Strand Turned Struggling Book Store Into a Literary Landmark". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 20, 2019.
  20. ^ "The Author's Bookshelf: The Bass Family". Retrieved February 20, 2020.
  21. ^ Staff (July 31, 2011). "In my library: Nancy Bass Wyden". New York Post. Retrieved February 20, 2020.
  22. ^ Staff (June 26, 2017). "The Strand bookstore at 90: Co-owner Nancy Bass Wyden looks back – and ahead". AM New York Metro. Retrieved February 20, 2020.
  23. ^ Noto, Anthony (February 20, 2019). "The Strand bookstore fights landmark status as it battles for survival". New York Business Journal. Retrieved February 20, 2020.
  24. ^ Maffucci, Samantha (December 5, 2018). "Who is Ron Wyden's Wife? New Details on Nancy Bass Wyden". Retrieved February 20, 2020.
  25. ^ Staff (July 13, 2005). "Satisfied Powell's Customer: Bass to Wed Senator". Shelf Awareness. Retrieved February 20, 2020.
  26. ^ Kimmelmann, Michael. "The Battle to Make the Strand a Landmark Is About More Than a Building". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 12 May 2020.
  27. ^ Epstein, Jim; Gillespie, Nick (January 4, 2019). "Leave the Strand Alone! Iconic Bookstore Owner Pleads With NYC: Don't Landmark My Property". Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  28. ^ Wyden, Nancy Bass (January 8, 2019). "Who gets hurt when cities kowtow to Amazon". CNN. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  29. ^ Staff (June 11, 2019). "Strand bookstore designated NYC landmark despite owner's objection". NBC News. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  30. ^ Ricciulli, Valeria (June 11, 2019). "Strand Bookstore, six other Broadway buildings are now NYC landmarks". Curbed. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  31. ^ Viernere, James (March 12, 2010) "Robert Pattinson’s romantic tale an affair to 'Remember'" Boston Herald
  32. ^ Lane, Anthony. "The Generational Anxieties of "The Truth"". The New Yorker. The New Yorker. Retrieved 12 May 2020.

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