Fundraiser for Westsider Books Raises $13,000 in First 19 Hours; If It Gets to $50,000, Owner Says He’ll Stay

A fundraiser that began after West Side Rag’s latest post about Westsider Rare & Used Books’ plans to close has already raised nearly $13,000 as of Wednesday evening, just one day after it was launched. If it gets to $50,000, owner Dorian Thornley says he plans to keep the store open. (Update: it jumped to over $15,000 shortly after this story was published!)

“I found out about it this morning,” Thornley said. “I did share the link on our Facebook page, but I haven’t had a chance to thank the guy yet, or really scrutinize the article. I’m pretty shocked, to be honest. When I mentioned it, I was just thinking out loud. I didn’t think anyone would actually run with it. It’s hard to really get my head around. If it makes it all the way up to 50 (thousand), everyone can feel happy and it’ll be great.”

And you’ll stay?

“Yes.”

Bobby Panza, a longtime West Side Rag reader (and a contributor) started the gofundme campaign when he saw the Rag article, which included a quote from Thornley floating the idea that a fundraiser could keep the place open.

“I’m blown away with the initial support,” Panza wrote to us. “Warms my heart.” He explained that “if the gofundme for Westsider Rare & Used Books doesn’t make it to the $50k Dorian was looking for, the money will be returned to all the donors.” He’s confident that won’t happen.  “We’re going to hit the goal,” he wrote.

Update: as of this writing, $24,783 has been raised.

Sally Martell, who gave $10,000 — the largest gift so far — says that “I did it because I’m tired of seeing our beloved neighborhood turning into blocks filled with empty store fronts, banks and Sprint stores. Helping a local store (especially a book store) survive in these days of outrageous rent hikes is what the UWS is all about.”

To give to the campaign, click here.

NEWS | 33 comments | permalink
    1. Sherman says:

      I’m sorry this bookstore is struggling but there are many small businesses on the UWS that are barely staying alive and are on the verge of closing.

      Are these people going to start a gofundme page for every struggling small business in the neighborhood?

      • emma says:

        Are you seriously bitter about people raising money for something they love and for wanting it to stay in business? Yeah obviously they can’t do it for every business but this is clearly something a lot of people care about.

      • Zanarkand says:

        I would say this is one of the places to focus attention on than people trying to fight to keep the Starbucks open near the antique outdoor market.

      • Neighbor says:

        Sherman, if this bookstore survives, does it somehow detract from YOUR chances of survival? What exactly is your beef?

      • Chrigid says:

        why not?

        There’s plenty of money on the West Side, and if the people who have it want to spend it to keep this neighborhood true to itself, we should all be greatful. The real estate industry certainly isn’t doing anything to help.

      • Kyle B Campion says:

        If small businesses are struggling on the upper west side, one of the wealthiest areas on the planet, then one can guess the culprit (rent). Those who are quick to shout “Amazon!!” should consider if Amazon Prime is the reason why a beloved diner closes. As such, if you’re concerned about the character of the neighborhood then I would encourage you to contact your representatives to do something about it. A final word for those “free market” types – isn’t the market telling you, with all of the vacancies, that the rent is too high?

    2. Lewis Sternberg says:

      I’m sorry to see it go but as a collector of books this store can’t compete with the likes of book finder.com, Abe books.com, or even amazon.com. These vendors make it far easier for me to find & acquire the books I’m looking for rather then trying to work my way through the poorly-lit, unreachable, & haphazardly-stocked shelves at this store.

      • Filatura says:

        Lewis, I also admit to being a sometimes customer of online booksellers like when I’m looking for something specific. The pleasure of a shop like Westsider is serendipity — coming upon something I didn’t know I wanted to read but suddenly do, or something I once read and would now like to own. That probably makes me an accumulator, rather than a “collector” of books. There’s room for both among people who love to read.

      • UWSSurfer says:

        Westsider Books lists their inventory on the online book-selling sites you mention, as well as having the brick-and-mortar store.

        They also buy books, which has been a big help
        to people in our neighborhood who are trying to survive since the economy crashed in 2008.

    3. Barbara says:

      This is nice, but what if they don’t get $50,000? Does he keep whatever they got or do they give the people who donated their money back? Curious.

    4. Paula says:

      The bookstore means so much to the neighborhood and having just bought an apartment here…. I will be lost without you ….

    5. drg says:

      I’m not really clear how raising 50,000 is a long term solution for this owner. It sounds like a one year living expenses subsidy, but he would be in the same exact situation NEXT year…needing another round of funding to stay open.

      It doesn’t seem that 50K will enable him to revamp his business model to profitability. Unfortunately, in this age of digital content and amazon, even the giant booksellers are struggling.

      Looking at the gofundme comments, I think the majority of donors promises to visit the store and buy books will go by the wayside, unfortunately… similar to New Years resolution promise to go to the gym.

    6. chris woo says:

      please tweet this story out to the stations and to the specific reporters who covered this story initially –the fundraising will get more traction if wabc, wcbs etc picks it up

    7. yourneighbor says:

      Good luck to them and a very impressive amount of money already collected but $50k doesn’t go very far when you are trying to run a business in Manhattan – especially when a chunk of that is going to pay back rent.

      Kind of like bailing out a boat with a couple of Dixie cups.

    8. Alison Ross says:

      Sherman, why don’t you start a gofundme for the businesses you care about on the UWS? I don’t see why it has to be an either-or thing, or why there is any hostility about this whatsoever. Save one struggling business, and you give hope to the others!

      • Sherman says:

        If a business had a solid business model then it wouldn’t be struggling.

        If a business is dependent on donations to stay afloat then something is wrong.

        In any case, let’s assume $50K is raised. How long will this last? Will there be another gofundme page in a few months to raise another $50K?

        Furthermore, assume the business closes in the near future. What will happen to all the money raised so far on gofundme?

        Ultimately, the only way to save a business is for people to shop there rather than give handouts.

        • Leda says:

          If the goal is not reached in the time frame stipulated, all funds collected are returned to the donors. Gofundme is very clear about this on ALL their fundraisers.

          • Jay says:

            Yes, but you’re giving money to a business that isn’t changing its model. Are you going to have fundraisers every year?

            You’re free to throw away money, but it seems like it could be better spent on homelessness or food banks.

    9. Filatura says:

      Just added my mite to the fund. Westsider is not just another small business: it’s part of the UWS’s wonderful history of culture, community, and unique retail.

    10. Mark Moore says:

      A fundraiser for a store that’s losing money does not seem like a sustainable way of keeping it open.

    11. Tim says:

      Very happy to support the campaign.

      To the critics of it, sure 50k isn’t going to solve anything long term. However, it’s great to see the neighborhood coming together to lend a hand in preserving what matters most to them about the UWS. An encouraging moment in this dark political climate.

    12. Juan says:

      I have briefly stopped in the store and it seems like a good place and I am very happy to have it in the neighborhood, particularly instead of an empty storefront. I 100% respect people’s rights to spend their money as they wish and I think that supporting this store is a better use of money than a lot of other options out there.

      That being said, as others have noted, I think this campaign is likely just a stay of execution. I really hope I am wrong, but I don’t see how things have changed unless those who are giving the money also start buying a lot more books.

      Best of luck to the store and I will try to do my part, but I am not optimistic.

    13. Paul L says:

      This is so heartwarming! My name is Paul Likitsakos and I had a store Anthi’s Greek Food on Amsterdam Ave bet 89th and 90th Street for over 7 years. I was severely depressed and heartbroken when I lost my store, I was working around 100 hours a week to keep it afloat, doing pop up catering events and farmers markets to try to survive! The landlords are only one problem in a perfect storm type of situation. I Grew up in the ues and uws, my family had stores in the ues since 1977, and it seems like big chains such as Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Online ordering such as Amazon, delivery platforms such as Try caviar and Uber eats, and the shrinking of the middle class in Manhattan due to rents being close to $4000 a month have devastated small mom and pop stores.
      Will donate to this cause. Hope this is the start of the comeback of small business in the uws!

    14. John says:

      I just bought a used Gershwin two CD box set there for ten bucks. I’ll go in more often if it will help keep them afloat. If you want a business to survive then effing buy stuff from them and tell your friends– and once in a while refrain from buying on Amazon– help lower Jeff Bezos’ alimony payments.

    15. Jay says:

      Throwing money into the wind won’t turn the clocks back 30 years.

    16. Paul L says:

      This is so heartwarming! My name is Paul Likitsakos and I owned Anthi’s Greek Food on Amsterdam Ave bet 89th and 90th for 8 years. For the people that don’t see the point of this fundraiser, do you not see that the problem is spreading, that shops in all industries are closing shop, and this problem will not be solved with simple market forces?

    17. Peter Peyser says:

      And how long will they stay open with this infusion of funds? This is a great instinct, but it would have been better to create a non-profit to buy the store than give a band-aid to an owner who is prepared to bail out. As it stands, this place could close in six months or a year and the donors will have nothing to say about it.

    18. Sally says:

      Dorian believes it can be kept open “indefinitely”if the funds are raised. We are at $35,000 but we need YOUR help. Any amount is much appreciated.

      https://www.gofundme.com/save-westsider-rare-amp-used-books-please

    19. ron shapley says:

      84 Charing Cross Road.. See what happened to that noble institution… Time marches on.

    20. Jo Baldwin says:

      It looks to me that the root cause of the problems most small businesses face, aside from poor management in some cases, is increases in rents. If that be the case, rather than calling the villain the “landlord” try naming him. Name and address as well. Phone number too, if possible. Maybe their CVs too. You know, their track record in forcing out businesses so they can bring in national chains who’ll pay much higher rents. Or publicizing the number of empty commercial spaces they have.
      But almost as equal in blame are the customers who blindly patronize the national chains while bemoaning their lost “mom and pop” stores.
      Rarely is a battle won by doing nothing. We must confront the villain and take the steps to change him.

      • Paul L says:

        The rents are only part of the problem in this perfect storm situation. The rents could be paid by small business owners if all the other variables such as city regulation, a community feeling and everyone supporting small business. I do agree though, if people won’t buy books, the 50,000 will be burned in 6 months