Westsider Rare & Used Books, the independent bookstore located on the Upper West Side for over 35 years, announced today it will be closing down soon.
"I just found out myself," said 80-year-old employee David Ray, who has worked at the store for over a decade. He said owner Dorian Thornley hasn't said the reason for closing, but, "I just assume business isn't that good." According to the store's Facebook page, there is a 30% sale on everything starting Tuesday, January 15th. (It's unclear exactly what date the store will close, but expected to be around the end of February.)
Ray added that longtime customers who had come by today were upset at the surprise news: "You could get a lot of things here you couldn't get elsewhere, and at a lower price," he said. "I'm a little upset myself."
Westsider, which was originally known as Gryphon Books, began as "a wheelbarrow full of used books for sale" before moving to the tiny storefront on Broadway between West 80th and West 81st Streets. According to NY Press, Thornley, who originally worked at the store, and his business partner Bryan Gonzalez bought the store in 2002. (The two also own Westsider Records on West 72nd Street.)
The store has the feel of a classic, pre-Internet NYC bookstore, the kind where people had to carefully walk over piles of seemingly random dusty used books just to navigate the aisles, or to get access to the narrow staircase to the second floor. In addition to the books, it was filled with unwanted DVDs, forgotten CDs, used records, and lots of curios that invited the curious to dig in. It was also featured in the movie Fading Gigolo, starring John Turturro and Woody Allen, as well as Todd Haynes's Wonderstruck.
The store faced competition in the neighborhood before, especially from a Barnes & Noble at W. 82nd and Broadway, and more recently from a newly-opened Shakespeare & Co. store which opened on Broadway between West 69th & 70th Streets in November.
In that interview with NY Press in 2013, Thornley grimly posited that physical books would become more of a novelty item than a means of reading, and didn't sound hopeful about the industry lasting more than five more years. "You can't fight the future," he said. "What am I supposed to do—bomb the Kindle factory?"