Fred Bass

Bass (1928-2018) joined the family business, the Strand Bookstore, at the age of 13 when it was located on 4th Avenue. In 1956 he took over the business, and in 1957 moved it around the corner to its present location at East 12th Street and Broadway. As the years went on, Bass came to spend most of his time at the buying desk, cultivating relationships with regulars, and turned a small second-hand shop into an international icon that boasts “18 miles of books.” In 2005, Bass was able to buy the building that houses the Strand and made various physical improvements. This oral history includes Bass’s encounters with the writers of the Beat Generation, Abstract Expressionist painters, folk singers, jazz musicians, and many other intellectuals who visited the bookstore; his opinions on some of the early Book Row bookstores, their owners, and the competitive spirit that typified Book Row in its prime; and changes to the neighborhood that he witnessed firsthand.