Feature Friday: A Unique Literary Landmark Faces an Uncertain Future

By Sheila Lewis

St. Mark’s Bookshop has been a neighborhood landmark since its opening in 1977, but since the economic downturn in 2008, it has experienced its share of financial ups and downs—a situation greatly exacerbated by their lease with Cooper Union, which will become prohibitively expensive in January 2013.

Photo credit www.stmarksbookshop.com

Bob Contant, husband of WNBA’s Marilyn Berkman, started the store in 1977, with Terry McCoy and three other partners.  The first store was at 13 St. Mark’s Place and ten years later it was relocated to the more spacious 12 St. Mark’s Place. Five years after that, Cooper Union approached them to become commercial tenants in a new dorm building. It was an offer they couldn’t refuse: 20% less on the lease for 15 years.

I was struck by how pragmatic, optimistic, and forward-thinking Bob is in spite of the looming rent increase and the general difficulty experienced by independent bookstores in today’s market. “In January, we will have no choice but to move. For now, we are looking forward to a healthy holiday season,” Bob told me when I spoke with him for this article.

Bob also had some good news for WNBA members who would like to support the bookstore this holiday season:

For members of WNBA, St. Mark’s Bookshop is offering a one-time, 10% discount on books purchased in-store until the end of 2012.

Thank you, Bob, for your generous offer. We trust that St. Mark’s Bookshop will continue to thrive in its new home, and wish you great success in finding the perfect venue for all of us book lovers.

St. Mark’s Bookshop is located at 31 Third Avenue. You can find them online at www.stmarksbookshop. Mention your WNBA membership for the 10% one-time discount. If you haven’t been, make it a must stop and shop before 2013!


  1. Wishing success and a bright future to this wonderful independent bookstore and NYC literary landmark.

  2. Hope you find a new home for your lovely bookstore! Thanks for the 10% discount for WNBA members!

  3. A very high quality bookstore worth saving!

  4. Wishing you a successful future! Barb Stafford

  5. Everyone at the WNBA is pulling for you!