Since the story broke in the Times, Williamsburg has been waiting for its very own outpost of the Soho bookstore McNally Jackson. Sadly, it’ll have to wait a bit longer.
When we managed to catch up with Sarah McNally via e-mail, she told us that “the developers [at 76 N 4th Street] are doing their best to convert them to retail and apartments, but their dates keep getting pushed back. We were originally supposed to be set to open early this fall, now it’s looking like fall 2015.”
The Times reported that McNally — one of New York’s top 5 counterculture bookstores — had been “stopped by the skyscraper-high rents” in Manhattan: “After spending years scouring Manhattan for a second location, Ms. McNally of McNally Jackson abandoned her search.”
McNally refutes this position. “I didn’t tell the Times that [I was motivated by surging Manhattan rents]. I did say that I had looked on the Upper West Side and been shocked at the rents, but that I am still planning another Manhattan store someday. But, frankly, Williamsburg had excited me enough to distract me from Manhattan for now.”
McNally assures Williamsburgers (not to mention Manhattanites bummed by the shrinking of the St. Mark’s Bookshop and the closing of Shakespeare & Co.) they’ll have something to look forward to. “I really will try to create the best bookstore we can,” she said, “which doesn’t exactly mean attempting to cater to the neighborhood, it means building something inspirational.”
While the Williamsburg store won’t have an Espresso Book Machine of its very own, McNally has other plans to make her new store special. “I have so many ideas I want to try, and the Soho store is basically public domain now, I can’t do much to change it.” She added, “I would like to start a Williamsburg Book Festival,” and says that her store will be differentiated from the existing stores in the area. “Word is in a different neighborhood, Book Thug is all used and Spoonbill is heavily used and rare. Desert Island is comics. I run a general interest independent bookstore with new books, it’s a different business model.”
McNally expresses admiration for the neighborhood. “Every time I go to Williamsburg I go weak at the knees for it, there are so many inspiring independent businesses and there’s great energy on the streets. There is nowhere like it in New York right now. I live in South Brooklyn, but when my international friends want to visit Brooklyn, only Williamsburg makes sense, the rest of Brooklyn is just little neighborhoods that often don’t flow into each other. Williamsburg is a world in itself. The chains are coming, it’s going to start changing, but its vitality is, at least for the moment, irrepressible.”
Bradley Spinelli (@13_Spinelli) is the author of “Killing Williamsburg.”