Certain times a year like “Small Business Saturday” or “National Small Business Week” we’re encouraged to shop local to promote our independent retailers. That’s nice, but one day or week a year is not enough, especially when our local small businesses are facing challenges like never before. We need to shop “Small Business EVERY-Day” to help support the small businesses that make Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo so special.
One of our favorite local bookstores is Mercer Street Books & Records. The shop opened on September 19, 1990, and is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. It is a small bookstore with a great selection. One of the last of its kind, this specialty bookstore offers a rich experience for both die-hard bibliophiles and browsers.
Owner Wayne Conti has developed an old-world feel in this compact space brimming with books and artwork. Mercer Street Books & Records is a place to leisurely browse and learn about books you didn’t even know existed. Wayne believes that having places to browse is critical for young and old people alike, and is a skill being lost. Wayne’s mission is to find unusual books and records and have them all in one place.
Wayne is a writer who knows where every book or record is located. He loves books and the Village. He is also an activist who has been fighting to stop the over-development of the South Village and the Village in general. He faces that issue every day — NYU’s mammoth 181 Mercer Street, a massive project that will be the largest building ever constructed in Greenwich Village, is being built just outside his front door.
Wayne is a published author of fiction and essays, and remains confident, even in the changed bookstore landscape, about the role of his store. “We’re cheaper than the ‘Net,” he says, “and you get the book right in your hand.”
Mercer Street Books & Records is the kind of business that should be preserved and
promoted. Without these unusual and personal spaces that are curated by
individuals rather than a corporate marketing department, the Village won’t truly continue to be the Village. As Wayne noted on Vanishing New York, he looks around at Manhattan and sees it becoming a mall – “and a mall is a very dull place. You see the same stores over and over. It cycles every 20 blocks. You’re losing the engine of innovation. You lose all the texture and quality of life.”
Mercer Street Books & Records was a Village Preservation Business of the Month in September, 2015. Read more here or and submit your nomination for your favorite business for Business of the Month here. And most importantly, go visit Wayne and Mercer Street Books & Records at 206 Mercer Street, just south of Bleecker Street and one block east of Broadway — it’s a unique experience you can’t replicate online.