St. Mark's Comics, which has been a mainstay of St. Mark's Place in the East Village for over 36 years, announced on Tuesday evening that it would be closing at the end of February. "Thanks for all your kind words and concern as word has gotten out," the store's account tweeted. "We will be starting our store-emptying #sale [Wednesday] morning @ 11AM."
Thanks for your patience.
We were trying to get this out earlier, but we got some things going on...
After 36 years of being privileged to serve #NewYork,
St. Mark's Comics is closing at the end of February.... https://t.co/mzTAcP31x4
— St. Mark's Comics (@StMarksComicsNY) January 29, 2019
In a longer message on Facebook Tuesday night, store owner Mitch Cutler offered some thoughts about why they were closing now, as one of the last holdouts left of the St. Mark's Place: "There are lots of obstacles to running a retail storefront in NYC; too many of them at once to fight, and after 36 pretty intense years, not enough left to fight them."
"We'll see you soon to say goodbye and share a good memory," he added. "Let's make this month a wake, not a funeral."
Like many of the best comic shops in the city, St. Mark's Comics was a lovingly cluttered store, with practically every inch of the space covered in comics, toys and specialty items. In other words, it was filled with personality and old NYC charisma, making it especially enticing to curious teenagers, sophisticated collectors, and bargain bin hunters.
In a brief interview with EV Grieve, Cutler cited a variety of factors, including increasing rents and changing consumer shopping habits, as to why they decided to close. "I have been working 90 hours a week for 36 years, and I no longer have the wherewithal to fight them — all of these various reasons," he said. "It is challenging to have a storefront business in New York City for a number of reasons...it is challenging to keep and maintain a retail storefront and there are enough impediments now that—like I said, I'm exhausted and can't fight them anymore."
He did theoretically leave the door a crack open ("Something could change, but that is our expectation") for some sort of attempt at saving the store—perhaps something like a crowdsourced fundraising campaign, which has helped places like Westsider Books stay afloat, but not others like Souen—but at the same time, he doesn't sound particularly interested in it. (The store did mount a GoFundMe campaign in 2017, too.)
this is the place where i fell in love with comics. this blows https://t.co/A4T43AqoPy
— matt lubchansky (@Lubchansky) January 29, 2019
St. Marks hasn't been St. Mark's for a while but this is still a bummer. https://t.co/jFLCMH413Q
— Robert Ker (@bobbker) January 30, 2019
In 2015, longtime tenants of St. Mark's Place, Trash & Vaudeville, moved their storefront. At the time, owner Ray Goodman said, "The rent is creeping up... rent was a factor." He added, "I love St. Mark's Place. There's no doubt it. There's something magical about it. This just isn't any block. The decision wasn't something that I took lightly. From a business perspective, we saw a shift in the clientele. The block is not as conducive for fashion shopping as it once was. Now it seems as if it's all food—fast food—and bongs. Even stores that aren't bong stores sell bongs."