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The Strand needs a hand; Owner fears COVID could write famed bookstore’s ending

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Could this be the final chapter for The Strand?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the famed Village bookstore’s revenue has cratered compared to last year. The drop in tourism brought by the pandemic is one major factor since the bookstore has always been a popular stop for out-of-towners, as well as for devoted locals.

Nancy Bass Wyden, the store’s third-generation owner, put out an e-mail appeal on Fri., Oct. 23, asking book lovers to show their love for the iconic shop by spending some dollars at it.

“The Strand’s revenue has dropped nearly 70 percent compared to last year,” she said. “And while the PPP [Payment Protection Program] loan we were given and our cash reserves allowed us to weather the past eight months of losses, we are now at a turning point where our business is unsustainable.”

Although Bass Wyden owns the store’s building, even that’s not enough to blunt the blow of the virus’s impact.

“We’ve survived just about everything for 93 years — the Great Depression, two World Wars, big-box bookstores, e-books and online behemoths,” she wrote. “We are the last of the original 48 bookstores still standing from Fourth Ave.’s famous Book Row. Because of the impact of COVID-19, we cannot survive the huge decline in foot traffic, a near complete loss of tourism, and zero in-store events — compared to 400 events pre-pandemic.

“As I watched my grandfather and dad working side by side evaluating piles of books at the front door buying desk, never did I imagine that the store’s financial situation would become so dire that I would have to write friends and devoted customers for help. It hurts to write this, but that is the predicament that we are now in.

“As the third-generation owner, I have tried to imagine what my dad and grandfather would do right now after they spent their entire lives — six days a week — working at the store,” Bass Wyden said. “I don’t believe they would want me to give up without a fight and that’s why I’m writing you today.”

Bass Wyden urged people to visit The Strand’s Web site and shop its gift guide, and to visit its two stores, it flagship at 828 Broadway at 12th St. (open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.) and its new one at 450 Columbus Ave. at 82nd St. (open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.)

The owner also encouraged people to give gifts from The Strand, including, in addition to books, gift cards, the store’s own subscription service (Book Hook Up), journals, totes and more.

“The next few months will determine the future of The Strand,” she said. “I’m going to pull out all the stops to keep sharing our mutual love of the printed word. But for the first time in The Strand’s 93-year history, we need to mobilize the community to buy from us so we can keep our doors open until there is a vaccine.”

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