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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Salute to a Giant

Image of the Day: Picture for an Exhibition

(Sorry! You have to click on the link to see painter Max Ferguson taking a photo of Strand co-owner Fred Bass holding Ferguson's painting "Strand Book Store, 2010," which will appear in an exhibition called "Urban Intimacy" at the Gallery Henoch in New York City.)

When the Strand Book Store opened in 1927 on New York City’s “Book Row,” it made the 48th bookshop in that famous lineup where the first had opened in the 1890s. “Today, the Strand is the sole survivor.” This information comes from their website, and you can read more there.

What made the difference? The Strand is a family operation, but surely among the other 47 bookstores they were other families. Besides, family can be the kiss of death as easily as a guarantee of success in business. It wasn’t location, either, because all 48 bookstores were on 4th Avenue back in 1927. Whatever the secret to their survival and flourishing, today the store is at 828 Broadway in lower Manhattan, a comfortable walk from the Staten Island Ferry.

I remember my first visit and the sensation I had, somewhere between being at the world’s best county fair (that would be the St. Joseph County Fair in Centreville, Michigan) and right up close to a force of nature, Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon. The enormity! The numbers! The sheer impossibility of taking it all in coupled to a almost blinding excitement at the prospect of trying! The Strand had shopping carts and multiple checkout lanes, like a grocery store! “I’m from Philadelphia,” Annie Hall kept saying in the movie, as if that should be sufficient to explain her responses to anything in New York. Well, I’m from the Midwest, and my experiences up to that time (I was 19 years old) had not prepared me for a bookstore like the Strand.

The Strand is still there today, over 80 years old and still going strong. New York would not be New York without it.

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