Famed Westsider Books Announces It Is Closing After 35 Years

Westsider Books, a small bookstore that has survived for 35 years at 2246 Broadway between 80th and 81st Streets, is closing, management announced on the company’s Facebook page on Monday. The store is selling everything for 30% off starting on Tuesday. “Thanks so much to all our loyal customers!” the store said on its website.

David, an employee at the store, confirmed the closing, and said he too had just heard the news from the owner. “It’s a big surprise,” he said. “Though on the other hand I’m not surprised. Everyone’s having trouble, even Barnes & Noble.”

David said he thinks the store will close toward the end of February. He didn’t have more information on what caused the owners to decide to close and the owners were not available to comment.

The store dubs itself “the last used book store on the Upper West Side.” It was featured in a Woody Allen movie a few years ago, as well as Wonderstruck and Can You Ever Forgive Me, according to Emily Belz.

The closure comes at a time when it seemed like things were getting better for local bookstores, with the recent opening of Shakespeare & Co. and other stores.

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NEWS, OPEN/CLOSED | 42 comments | permalink
    1. Keith Heitner says:

      Is Westsider Records on 72nd street also closing?

    2. Samantha Berman says:

      OH NO!!

    3. pfffft says:

      NOOOOOO! The Upper West Side is done. Fried. I knew this day was coming, and I was always surprised it didn’t come sooner.

    4. Byron says:

      This is terrible

    5. Kyle B Campion says:

      Death by 1000 cuts…the death of the UWS is painful to watch.

      • Sherman says:

        You’re correct. The UWS is finished!

        We really need more bookstores selling old and dusty books.

        • Read paper says:

          Something is wrong if you can’t see the value in small, quirky businesses whose staff have deep appreciation for their field. Do you like all your belongings fresh from the factory and shipped by Amazon robots, or just your books?

        • Kyle B Campion says:

          Don’t worry, the “Retail Space For Lease” sign that will be hanging in the window won’t accumulate any dust until at least the 3rd year of vacancy..until it becomes a nail salon, Chase ATM nook.

        • JonD says:

          1. You’re not from the Upper West Side. (You may live there now, but you’re definitely not from New York.)
          2. You’re a millennial, aren’t you?

      • A says:

        Guys, come on. Indie bookstores are thriving on the UWS. Get off your high horse. The UWS is not dead. At least the Starbucks’ are actually starting to CLOSE. xo

    6. RobRoy says:

      I was a customer at the original location in the 80’s off of Broadway and then became an employee at the current location (when it was Gryphon). It was a fun, colorful place with lots of interesting customers. This closing is very sad but not a surprise. The internet (and rents of course) killed the brick & mortar rare book business. Lots of great memories.

      • Glacierboy says:

        The massive irony is that there is emotion and a write-in campaign to save a national chainstore Starbuck’s location on Columbus when the Mom-N-Pop used bookstore mate just fade into history. Seems like out priorities are skewered here on the UWS

      • Gryphon had aisles and rows of books, leather armchairs, coffee for guests, and a wonderful parrot. You could wander around, and sit, and thoroughly enjoy your self.

    7. Joe Fox says:

      You’ve got mail !

    8. Edith says:

      This is really heartbreaking. Nothing else to say

    9. sam seibert says:

      The Dolphin. Murder Ink. The Book Ark. There was a bookstore west of Broadway that never seemed to be open, but I used to walk by just to stare in the window at a beautiful pristine volume of Ibsen’s plays in Yiddish. All gone. All gone.

      • sam seibert says:

        Also the Pomander, down below Symphony Space. And the second floor of the old Shakespeare & Co. And a bookstore at Amsterdam and 118th whose name I now. The New Yorker, upstairs at Broadway and 89th, did they sell used books, or did they just stock a whole lot of obscure poetry broadsides that no one bought? The place always had customers anyway, if memory serves. And the original Gryphon, just across Broadway from there. They had a noisy green parrot and wonderful worn-out chairs, and lots of great bookstore dust.

      • sam seibert says:

        My street peddler friend at Broadway and 85th helped recall the name of the store with the volume of Ibsen in Yiddish: The Retriever. Also in the window was a James Joyce first edition, he says.

    10. Tim says:

      A very very sad day for the Upper West Side

    11. Ben says:

      Who else is going to rent the space? It’s too small for a bank or a doctor’s office, it’s not zoned for a restaurant, and there’s no way it’ll get a liquor license. Even if it did, how would they fit enough customers in there to pay the rent?

    12. Rob G. says:

      Boy do I have warm memories of this place. This was my epicenter of my early years on the Upper West Side in the late 1980s. I still have many of the books that I bought there throughout the years. RIP.

    13. Drew says:

      I am sad to see this place close as I live just a block away. Bookstores have such a warm nostalgic atmosphere.

      That said I never read print anymore and I’m not just an early adapter. I started reading digital books back on the original Palm Pilot when they were .lit files. Even back then I found reading digitally with a back light and the ability to click on any word and get an immediate definition to be so beneficial that I never wanted to go back to regular books. Not to mention not having to lug around, store, and move big heavy books being so much better.

      I know change is hard and many people still like to read from paper but for me I have been reading digital for 20 years and don’t ever want to go back. This is just a casualty of advancement and after all what is REALLY important are the words coming from the author, not the medium you read it from or the store you buy it in. RIP nice bookstore.

      • Also also says:

        Nothing against reading digitally–but the problem/question is, how can there ever be a physical space devoted to that in a community? With everyone buying e-books in their own homes, we lose the chance to gather around books and discuss them. We lose, I would argue, the 3-dimensionality of the books.

    14. Carlos says:

      Unless it is being combined with a neighboring space, I don’t really see what the owner plans to do with this space that would make it significantly more profitable as it is a small, unique space. I have a feeling that this will be yet another empty storefront.

    15. Nancy says:

      Sorry to see this store close. WSR readers who are looking for another place that offers a wonderful selection of used books may want to attend the bimonthly library book sales at St. Agnes library. Prices are very reasonable and the proceeds help support our local library branch. According to the NYPL website, the next sale will take place on January 23: https://www.nypl.org/events/programs/2019/01/12/st-agnes-library-book-sale

    16. JR says:

      I have to admit that despite being a lover of books and bookstores, I did not regularly frequent this store. I found it to be kind of dingy and disorganized. How many readers of this article actually regularly purchased books from this store? I suspect that many who lament the loss of this store did not actively support it. If stores like this are going to survive they require active support from the community. Stop complaining about closing stores and support your local businesses if you want them to remain open.

      • Virginia says:

        I did. Frequently. I bought a books–or two–pretty much every time I walked past. Certainly every time I went there to donate books (or cds)… because I was allegedly “downsizing”!!

      • sam seibert says:

        “Dingy and disorganized” is where you get serendipity.

        • boooooks says:

          AGREED. That’s the beauty of this place, and of the Strand. You don’t go to a store like those for hip interiors. And that’s OK!

    17. Kathleen says:

      I, too, am sad to see Westsider close and, like others, am surprised it lasted as long as it did. I’ve donated many books to them because I love to support small local business, of which there are so few left. I’ve also purchased many. I used to pass by often when I lived on 84th Street and couldn’t help myself, I had to browse…especially those shelves out front, they were like a magnet. Sad days for some of us.

    18. jenni says:

      How sad – when living a while in New York I fell in love with UWS and it’s character – this bookshop is a true gem and felt like a step into bygone times. Warm summer nights or lights reflecting on rainy pavements in winter, it didn’t matter, this little shop was inviting. No glitz or website can every match rickety,dusty treasure filled shelves and such interesting fellow book-lovers.

    19. Sue L says:

      Agree with all commenters below.
      Another of those times when you’d almost NOT want such a good memory!

    20. Janet Wasserman says:

      What a coincidence. In the past two weeks I saw two movies using the store’s interior. So immediately recognizable. And so sad to hear Westsider Books is leaving. Good luck to all. You have been a treasure to book lovers for as along as I’ve lived here – 40 years. I will miss you.

    21. szhv says:

      Why don’t we try to save it? We saved Westside Judaica.

    22. Kathleen says:

      This really is sad..but at least this closure is not due to greedy landlord. I’ll miss them and their great prices for children’s literature, a lot. Not to mention their nice, knowledgeable staff…people who really LIKE books!

    23. Ed says:

      I have walked by this store for years and it is almost always empty. Where were all of you lamenters when the store needed your business? Support businesses or they wont last. Simple equation.

    24. G.M. Parker says:

      Your bookstore was a wonderful one, your staff always were attentive and helpful. I liked very much shopping, and browsing there. Thank you.

      G.M. Parker

    25. Pete Salwen says:

      I’d really miss this wonderful old shop, which by the way is actually something like 50 years old, I believe. Back in the 60s or 70s I knew this shop as Barqu Books — a name that may have had some sort of occult or literary meaning — then located on West 89th Street east of Broadway. Later it was also known as Gryphon, before they settled on the less poetic (but more descriptive) “Westsider Books.” Under any name, it was a touchstone of the community. Hope they manage to stick around.