Strand Books a landmark cultural institution in New York City, and one of the most important bookstores in the world. We had the chance to meet Nancy Bass, the owner of the store famously known for its “18 Miles Of Books”, who shared the history and the spirit of this second home for so many New Yorkers.
The store has just undergone the most difficult period in its 93-year history during the coronavirus pandemic. After three months of having their doors closed, they were finally able to welcome back their community on Monday, June 22nd. Adapting to these changes, The Strand has rebuilt their online business, launched a virtual events series, and updated all health and safety protocols in the store to make sure everyone has the safest experience possible.
The store is located in Greenwich Village, with a new location opening this year on the Upper West Side, and you can watch their videos on nyxt.nyc/strand-books.
What is Strand Books?
NB: The Strand is an intricate part of New York City and its community. It’s a shopping experience when you come here, a real tactile feel, it’s a serendipity of what you’ll find, you really never know. Plus we have a great staff, every person here has majored in English, and they want to help you find books, and help you discover things that you might never have known about.
What is the history of The Strand?
NB: The Strand was founded 93 years ago by my grandfather Ben Bass, and it was in an area in New York City called Book Row, which had 48 other used bookstores. He was competing against all of them. One was called The Cheapest Book Store, one was called Friendlies, they had a music bookstore, they all specialized in different things. With rents rising in the 1950s they all started to shutter, and my dad was involved in the business at that point. His name was Fred Bass. He took a leap of faith and he found the space that we reside in right now. My dad passed away two years ago, I’ve been working with him for 32 years, but he left the store to me, so I am now running it.
What is your experience like as a female leader?
NB: It’s challenging to be a woman boss. I like it because I do have control over my life. The fun part is that I can think of new ideas, I can think about what authors to have here, I actually don’t have any bureaucracy, I can implement it. And there are more and more women bookstore owners.
Photo via strandbooks.com
Nancy began helping in the store at age 6, sharpening pencils for staff, and at 16, she began taking phone requests, working the cash register, and managing the store’s Central Park kiosks. After receiving her MBA from the University of Wisconsin, she returned to New York City to work for her father at The Strand.
How does The Strand work with the community?
I consider it to be a community center of New York City. I think it’s a place where you can find great reads, where hopefully these books will inspire you, where you can escape in them. I’ve heard plenty of artists say that they’ve gotten the inspiration for their pieces from it, writers where you can connect with other people, or you can connect with authors. So I think of it really as part of the fabric of New York City.
Does The Strand collaborate with non-profits?
The Strand collaborates with lots of non-profits. We put up a library for the Fresh Air Fund, they provide summer camps for urban kids that are kind of stuck in the city. We also do lots of events with PEN, which is an organization that promotes freedom of expression for authors and journalists, all internationally. The other thing is that we welcome and give tours for students, and we try to educate them about books, and about bookselling, with every kind of student from grade school onto college. And people in writing programs too, MFA programs, come here and I give them tours.
What is coming next for the Strand?
What’s coming next for The Strand?! Well for one thing, we’ve opened up a new location which is 450 Columbus Avenue. It is located two blocks just north of the Natural History Museum. We are going to do more and more fun events here at The Strand, we always keep improving here at the Greenwich Village location at 12th and Broadway. So please, please, come and say hello to me!
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