Jeffrey Frank on Ithaca’s Bookery I & II

While I focus on things other than blogging this month, I’m running a series on independent bookstores. Below novelist and New Yorker editor Jeffrey Frank (author most recently of Trudy Hopedale) praises The Bookery of Ithaca, New York.

The Bookery is actually two stores — Bookery I and Bookery II — a few steps in different wings of the Dewitt Mall in downtown Ithaca, New York. (The “mall” is one of America’s first successful building conversions, dating from the early 1970s; it was formerly DeWitt Junior High.)

The first Bookery was established in 1975 by Jack Goldman (he still owns and runs it), and it quickly became an exceptional antiquarian bookstore — with a terrific stock of fiction, philosophy, and New York history. In 1985, Goldman opened Bookery II, distinguished by its good taste and wide selection — particularly of fiction. (Wow, look at all those Trollopes!) As Ithaca’s other bookstores began to fail from natural causes — Amazon and the large chains chief among them — Bookery II also faltered. Goldman eventually sold the business to Gary Weissbrot, who has kept its spirit intact while promoting in-store events, such as author readings.

Ithaca is a college town (Cornell, Ithaca College, etc.) and books still have a visible place there. The twice-yearly Friends of the Library sale attracts dealers from all over, and there are good secondhand shops on the Commons. But even such conditions cannot guarantee that independent bookstores — those that reflect the personalities and obsessions of their owners — will prosper.

Almost to reassure myself, whenever I have a chance I make it a point to visit the DeWitt Mall, where, at least for now, the non-expanding Bookery “chain” is special and enduring — a place that, in ways communities like Ithaca are beginning to understand, is essential.

Images of Bookery I taken from this site. If you’d like to see your favorite bookstore mentioned, send email to bookstores [at] maudnewton [dot] com telling me about it. Please include a photo or a link to one.


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