Since 1999, one Barnes & Noble bookstore has served the book needs of the million-plus residents of the Bronx. It is, as The New Yorker points out, the only general-interest bookstore in the entire New York City borough. And at the end of this year, it will close.
On Oct. 18, the bookseller announced it would not renew the lease on its Co-op City location next year. The store will be replaced by a Saks Off Fifth, a discount-outlet version of the Saks Fifth Avenue department store, reports local station News 12: Bronx.
“We worked hard to extend our lease and had extensive discussions with the property owner in hopes of coming to an agreement,” says David Deason, vice president of development for Barnes & Noble, in a statement. “Though we were paying substantial rents at this location, the property owner has decided to lease the space to another retailer who was willing to pay more.”
Deason added that the company would “certainly consider the Bronx as potential location for a new store in the future.”
The borough, where nearly 30% of the population lives at or below the poverty line, nearly lost the bookstore two years ago, when Barnes & Noble announced it wouldn’t be renewing the lease on its Co-op City location in 2015. Local residents rallied around the store, and borough president Ruben Diaz Jr. negotiated with the landlord to prevent a rent increase, saving the store for another two years.
The drama underscores the reversal of fortune for the big chain stores, which helped put independent sellers out of business before falling on hard times themselves. Barnes & Noble closed its last store in Washington DC last year, adding to its roughly 30 closings per year (with far fewer openings) since 2009.
Meanwhile, independent bookstores are now seeing healthy attendance, while at the same time Amazon is opening its third brick-and-mortar bookstore, dedicated to gadgets and its dirt-cheap book prices. Earlier this year, Barnes & Noble announced plans for five new “concept” stores, smaller than its original retail stores, that will serve wine and beer.