Turning the page on bookbook

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West Village independent bookstore to close after 35 years


  • Bookbook owner Carolyn Epstein with employee David Hammerschlag. Photo: Jason Cohen

  • Bookbook has been a Village fixture. Photo: Jason Cohen

By Jason Cohen

After more than three decades of being a fixture in the Village as an independent bookstore in the Village, bookbook will be shuttering its doors May 15.

Located at 266 Bleecker Street, bookbook has been owned and operated by Chuck and Carolyn Epstein since 1984. The store’s original address was 400 Bleecker Street, and it was then known as the Biography Book Shop.

The mom and pop book store features recent and backlist fiction, children’s books, travel, history, drama, cookbooks, art and fashion books and other subjects.

Carolyn Epstein explained that it has been a fun, long ride, but that she at the age of 70 and her husband at 69 felt it was time to call it quits.

“At this point, we kind of had enough; we’re tired,” she said. “I’m kind of looking forward to not having any responsibility.”

Epstein said the book business runs in the blood of her and her husband. Prior to owning the store, she was a sales rep for Simon & Schuster and Chuck’s mother owned a bookstore in Stony Brook.

“We just kind of always did it and liked being around books,” she remarked.

According to Epstein, when they opened their store 35 years ago they had no business plan, but simply wanted to put their passion to good use.

After a few years of seeing that biographies were not what the community wanted, they shifted to fiction, non-fiction and other books. Then by the early 90s they added remainders, which changed their business.

Remaindered books are printed books that are no longer selling well and whose remaining unsold copies are liquidated by the publisher at greatly reduced prices.

“Remainders have helped us a lot,” she said.

She looked back on their time in the Village and said as much as she and her husband have enjoyed owning the store, it was never easy. It is a small bookstore in the city, Epstein said, not Amazon.

Certain times, especially during the recession in the 2000’s, were challenging, she said.

“It was hard keeping up on the bills and all that,” she noted.

Epstein explained that as 2019 began she and her husband realized it was time for a new chapter in their lives. They hope to travel, maybe live in Spain for a year and ultimately just relax.

She noted that with the changing economic times and online retail, they have had to work much harder recently than they did in the past.

“It’s not just rent and sales taxes,” she said. “We’re not in a position to keep putting money into the store.”

But they still intend to be a presence in the community. Once they close, the Epsteins plan to be at the Abingdon Square Farmers Market on the corner of Hudson and 12th Streets on most Saturdays, with tables full of interesting books and a selection of greeting cards. Periodically, they also plan on having tables by the pickle stand on Carmine Street, between Sixth Avenue and Bleecker Street.

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