After trying just about everything everything else to survive, St. Mark’s Bookshop is finally turning to crowdfunding. It was about time. From Brooklyn’s Broken Angel house to the Lower East Side’s Cake Shop, crowdfunding has become a favorite of beloved but penurious institutions and not-quite-lost causes.
St. Mark’s, hoping to help fund a move to a cheaper location, has launched a Lucky Ant campaign to crowdsource $23,000, according to Crain’s. Like so many other stores and people who have long called Manhattan home, the book store can’t afford to pay its rent and needs to relocate. With its rent reduction of $2,500 a month from landlord Cooper Union set to expire in November, the store is now trying to marshal funds for a move.
It is beloved by cultural icons, borough presidents and bookworms far and wide, but the St. Mark’s bookshop needs more than love to survive its latest trials and tribulations. It needs money.
The bookstore requires an infusion to make it through the summer slump, when readers turn to cheap paperbacks acquired at airports and magazines for their beach reading.
When Aaron Hillis and his wife bought Cobble Hill’s Video Free Brooklyn—a well-loved but somewhat dingy relic from the age of VHS—they had rather lofty plans for the store. They would transform the outmoded space into hub of film culture that would redefine the role of the video store in the time of Netflix. It would be both a boutique offering personalized service and an event space (thanks to collapsible shelves) with screenings and discussions. But like many fledgling entrepreneurs, their plans far outpaced their pocketbooks—Mr. Hillis figured he would need about $50,000 to revamp the space.
They might have tried for a bank loan, or made do until they saved enough for the renovation, but neither option was very appealing, so the Hillises did what everyone with a creative vision and a lack of cash seems to do these days: they launched a crowdfunding campaign.
“I don’t think it’s any different or less valid than when PBS or NPR ask people to donate for a free tote bag, or the Kickstarter campaign in Detroit to build a life-size statue of RoboCop,” said Mr. Hillis, who has thus far raised about $7,000 (with two weeks to go on a $50,000 campaign) on Indiegogo. “As long as you’re transparent about where the money is going, you’re putting together something that people want to be a part of.”