BookCourt announced today it’s closing after 35 (!!) years as the literary heart of Cobble Hill and surrounding neighborhoods, and it feels a particularly spiteful match thrown onto the already gasoline-drowned 2016. The press release the owners sent out didn’t cite a specific reason other than they were ready to move on with their lives. The store survived the gentrification and yuppiefication of the neighborhood, and seemed to stand strong even as a Barnes and Noble opened just a few blocks away. Its last day will, fittingly, be the last day of 2016: New Year’s Eve.
BUT, this is one piece of 2016 news that has an actual good news clapback. The spirit of BookCourt won’t be gone forever because two of the store’s acolytes, wife and husband duo Emma Straub and Michael Fusco-Straub, also announced today they’re opening a new bookstore somewhere nearby.
“Books are magic, and we want to make sure that this neighborhood is positively coated in bookish fairydust for decades to come,” the couple wrote in their announcement. Details on when and where their store will be are still to come, but Straub worked at BookCourt for years so we imagine the store will live on in some form in her new shop. Still, people are taking the BookCourt news particularly hard.
I'm a little emotional right now so sorry but I feel like losing BookCourt is the bookstore version of losing Prince or Bowie.
— Jason Diamond (@imjasondiamond) December 6, 2016
Well @BookCourt is one of the best stores I ever got fired from. Much love to the Zooks! Shop like hell there in the next few weeks!
— Jim Behrle (@jimbehrle) December 6, 2016
Profoundly saddened to hear the news that @BookCourt is closing. We need spaces like you now more than ever.
— Jillian Steinhauer (@jilnotjill) December 6, 2016
— Daniel Roberts (@readDanwrite) December 6, 2016
When I moved to NYC and was deciding where to live, stumbling on @bookcourt was a big part of why Cobble Hill immediately felt like home.
— Lila Battis (@lilabattis) December 6, 2016
Somebody, please buy @BookCourt and keep it open.
— Jeanne Park (@geniepee) December 6, 2016
BookCourt is closing and I'm unbelievably sad: https://t.co/0Q8yhyQngD
— Anne Helen Petersen (@annehelen) December 6, 2016
never thought that the much needed distraction from garbagefire news would come in the form of one of my most frequented bookstores closing
— chelsea hassler (@chelseaadelaine) December 6, 2016
Businesses come and go in New York City and BookCourt’s owners aren’t saying exactly what’s leading them to close, so we don’t know if it’s that pernicious bête noire of rent increases or if they just decided to hang up their bookselling shingles.
But Brooklyn has an insatiable need for bookstores, which have experienced a massive boom in the years since BookCourt’s 2008 expansion: Since then, Word, Greenlight, Molasses, Pioneer Works and Powerhouse and more all opened shop; several of them have expanded to new locations too. So it makes sense the Straubs would jump in to fill the void, though whether they’ll be able to land a prime location on Court Street remains to be seen.
“We encourage everyone reading this to find and support other indie bookstores, here in Brooklyn or wherever you may be,” BookCourt owners Henry Zook and Mary Gannett said in their statement. “While bookstores do close for various reasons, we want to remind you that many more are flourishing and your support is vital to their success.”
I personally spent a lot of time in BookCourt, browsing the shelves on many a lunch break from Trader Joe’s, trying not to spill burrito droppings on a Jennifer Egan book. I will always remember one night, several winters ago, walking in to check out a reading, I don’t remember which author but odds are I just walked in at the time not knowing who it was, trusting in the store’s programming.
The winter night was bitter and harsh, the kind of temperature that makes your eyes water and makes you wonder why the hell you even left the house in the first place to walk down to Cobble Hill. The windows of the shop were clouded with the vapor of radiators and the warmth emanating from coat-wrapped bodies and unspooling conversations. I sat down as an older gentleman with an inviting smile walked over to an acquaintance sitting in front of me to say hi, clapping his hands and rubbing them together as he did so. “There’s nothing like a warm bookstore on a cold winter night, eh?” he said.
That will always be the lasting image of BookCourt in my mind: a warm bookstore on a cold winter night, a respite from the world outside, even if just for a few minutes over lunch break.
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