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Thursday, December 21, 2006


Goodbye, Ivy's

Very bummed tonight. My wife and I just got back from the last visit we'll ever make to our favorite New York bookstore. Ivy's Books and Curiosities is about half a block from the 96th street stop on the 2/3 line. We're on that block all the time, shopping for one thing or another or heading to the park. We stopped in to Ivy's frequently on these trips.

It was an excellent version of your stereotypical independent book store. Tall shelves, a fantastic "recommended" section, knowledgeable employees and a huge dog named Gus whose name is actually featured on the window. Their selection is pretty small, but they can order anything they don't have and it takes barely any time at all.

I don't want to paint an incorrect portrait here. It's not like we went there every day and the staff knew us by name or anything. In fact, Gus usually barked at me when he was there. But we've shopped there since we moved to Manhattan and we've always done our best to support them.

Okay, we've also been guilty of giving in to our hunger for convenience/discounts and shopping at Barnes & Satan, but we really did try, especially when it came to buying gifts. We bought a lot of books this Christmas and we bought all of 'em at Ivy's.

So, when I saw in yesterday's New York Times that the place was closing at the end of this month, it depressed the hell out of me. My wife and I decided we'd head down there tonight, as this would be our last chance to see the place before it gets turned into a Baby GAP or something. We bought an Ivy's mug and a few more last minute presents--plus one or two things just for ourselves; we love books.

When the owner rang us up, we attempted to express our sorrow at the store's closing, but it's not easy to put into words how saddened you are by something like this when you're staring at the person who's feeling it about a million times more deeply than you are. Really, the only thing we could do was thank him and tell him how much we loved the place. We walked out with our heads hung low.

It wasn't until we'd gone back to the store so my wife could run in and get some bookmarks that I took a close look at their window and noticed a picture of Gus, who apparently passed away in the last week or so. A black line had been painted through this name on the window. I feel so bad for the owner.

I also feel bad for the rest of America. We've helped make it impossible for places like Ivy's to stay afloat. We're all so eager to suckle discounts from Wal-Mart's teat (or whatever giant corporate teat you want to substitute in this analogy) that independent businesses have absolutely no way to compete.

These monstrous corporations, which want you to think that they actually have everyone's best interests at heart, specifically target small businesses. I remember years ago, when I worked for B&N and was helping to open their flagship Seattle store, which they'd opened in a plaza that already had a very nice little bookstore which specialized in a particular kind of book--can't for the life of me remember which kind. Anyway, the corporate trolls came in for our training and I asked them if they would ever consider trying to co-exist with an existing nearby small bookstore that specialized like that by, say, ceding that one particular area to them. You would have thought I'd ask if they'd mind me having sex with a copy of Beowulf in the display window. No, these assholes find a small store doing well and then open right next to it and grind it into paste.

When I mentioned the store's closing to a co-worker who was in the teacher's room when I read the article in the Times, she said, "Oh, it's like in You've Got Mail." This got me thinking about a couple of things. First off, it got me thinking how much I hate that fucking movie. (You can practically hear both Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan thinking, "Give me my fucking paycheck and don't ever make me have to star in derivative crap like this again!") And second, it made me angry thinking about how the Hanks character in that, behemoth though his company is, is meant to be this awesome guy who just wants to use his company's power of discounting to get books in the hands of the masses. Why, what a wonderfully benevolent corporation! Yay! What a crock of shit.

So now my wife and I are going to do our best to find another independent bookstore and stay away from Barnes & Noble forever. However, I'm still keeping my Amazon wish list. So...yeah.

You forgot to mention the other infuriating thing about that fucking movie. While it takes this attitude of "oh the poor little independent sotre owner" while the movie is full of product placement from AOL and Starbucks. Shit, is there a scene in that movie that they aren't drinking a cup of Starbucks? Hard to feel bad for the "Shop Around the Corner" owner losing business to the corporate bookstore when she doesn't support the local coffeehouse.

Yea, that movie blows.
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