Major turnout of book lovers save The Strand from bankruptcy

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Beyond My Ken | Wikimedia Commons

Farah Javed, Copy Chief

Manhattan-based bookstore Strand announced it was on the verge of declaring bankruptcy. Within the next two days, customers contributed to $170,550 in sales.

The Strand Book Store has a long history with New York. The first store was “founded in 1927 by Benjamin Bass, a Jewish Lithuanian immigrant, with $300 in cash and a $300 loan,” according to Washington Sources. It is now one of the last of the 48 bookstores that once lined Fourth Avenue, back when the area was nicknamed “Book Row.

In the past week, current owner of the Strand Book Stores, Nancy Bass Wyden, went on social media and pleaded with consumers to help keep the literary landmark alive.

“We need your help. This is the post we hoped to never write, but today marks a huge turning point in The Strand’s history. Our revenue has dropped nearly 70% compared to last year, and the loans and cash reserves that have kept us afloat these past months are depleted,” Wyden tweeted on Oct. 23.

The Strand’s bookstores were forced to cancel 400 appearances from authors and guests. A large portion of profit comes from those events, so the cancellations, coupled with low sales from an ordinarily busy back-to-school September, led to that 70% decrease overall.

In a heartfelt letter detailing her own relationship with the store, she further pleaded with customers to “#savethestrand.” She stated that The Strand survived 93 years in business, despite economically devastating events like The Great Depression, World War I and II. More recently, the rise of e-books and online bookstores has also hurt physical book sales along with the Strand.

Wyden urged consumers to get their holiday gifts early at the bookstores’ locations in Manhattan. She provided the link to the Strand’s online gift guide, which showcased a wide array from books and journals to mugs and socks.

After posting the letter on social media, thousands of people began retweeting and sharing Wyden’s post. As of Oct. 30, it had 16.5 thousand retweets and 26.3 thousand likes. The bibliophile community didn’t just talk the talk; they came out in droves to financially support the business.

“One woman in the Bronx bought 197 books. A dozen customers asked Strand to design their home libraries,” Inquirer reported. Even with the coronavirus pandemic, book lovers of all ages stood on the line that went down the block to keep one of their favorite book locations in business.

“I love The Strand, because you come in thinking you want one book and you end up with an armload of other books that you end up loving,” 12-year-old Amelia said.

Amelia’s sentiment is evidently shared online. On the weekend after Wyden posted, the online website received more than 25,000 orders over the weekend. As more people shopped online and orders grew, the website crashed. In normal times, the website brought in on average 300 orders a day. Many employees cut their vacations short or came in at times they don’t ordinarily work to help with the sudden influx in sales, according to The New York Times.

Some believe that Wyden, as a billionaire, should have donated to the business herself. This belief is heightened by the fact that she purchased $115,000 in stocks from Amazon in June, while continuing to lay off employees at the time.

Regardless of the controversy surrounding her asking the public for financial aid, Wyden remains touched by the community’s help.

“How can I not love my book community for helping like this?” She said in a phone interview with The Washington Post. “I really don’t think that we’re just a bookstore. I think we’re a place of discovery and a community center. When I ask for help and they respond this fast, it’s so heartwarming.”