In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of America’s oldest and most famous bookstores, The Strand, asked for help, and literature lovers responded.
Nancy Bass Wyden represents the third generation of The Strand owners. Ninety-three years ago, his grandfather opened the store that later became one of the most famous bookstores in New York City.
“My first memory is walking into the store and seeing it painted a ghostly gray, seeing all the walls of books everywhere, smelling of chocolate. And seeing my grandfather and my dad working together … Heading straight to the children’s section where there were only sweet colored books (…) And I felt like a princess because I can choose any book! “Wyden told the Voice of America.
Today, The Strand is listed in a myriad of New York City guidebooks as one of the most unusual, largest, and oldest bookstores in the world.
Vasilis Terpsopoulos, the bookstore’s rare books expert, highlighted some of the unique editions the store owns.
“This is the most expensive book in the store right now,” he says while showing a limited edition of the ‘Ulises’ by James Joyce, autographed by the Irish novelist. “It is signed by Henry Matisse, the artist who illustrated it, and also by James Joyce,” says the expert.
The Strand has survived the Great Depression, two world wars, and the 9/11 attacks. But the COVID-19 pandemic has become the biggest challenge facing this store, which was closed for four months. His financial problems are getting worse, says Nancy Bass Wyden, his owner.
“Of course, at first it was very painful, I felt very lonely and didn’t know what to do next. I decided that I would write a sincere letter and appeal to our clients and friends. The only question was: Would you buy your Christmas gifts here? “He explained.
Three hours after the message was posted, The Strand’s website crashed. 25,000 online orders were received simultaneously. Before the pandemic, the daily average was around 300. Nancy remembers surprising requests and help from friends at the bookstore.
“We had a lady from the Bronx, and she placed an order for 197 books. We had people volunteer to give employees pizza parties, $ 500 gift cards … “she says.
The packaging department couldn’t handle the tsunami of orders, so Wyden joined them. Store employees volunteered to work on weekends to help with orders.
“It was kind of a combination of wow! and uh-oh! We’re trying to figure out how we’re going to do this! “Says Dan Roth, the web order manager
Outside, in the street, a giant line snaked in front of the entrance of the shop, when Nancy came out she did not hesitate to exclaim: “Thanks for today, New York! For the first time since mid-March, large numbers of New Yorkers flocked to the bookstore.
Sara Buroi, a client commented: “It’s really sad, so everyone will be getting books for Christmas this year! Everyone I know! “
Thanks to simple acts of generosity, the owner of the bookstore ensures that the store will survive no matter how many more months of pandemic there are.
“I have to think that my grandfather and my dad are looking down, seeing this turn of events, and they are absolutely stunned and cannot believe this phenomenon. And I would never have imagined this outpouring of love!” Wyden said.