Video: A Bookstore’s Incredible Comeback Story Told in Five Heartfelt Minutes

The saga of Westsider Books, which went from going-out-of-business to saved-by-the-community in less than a week, is featured in a short film by Christopher Ming Ryan. He sent it to us below, with a brief explanation.

“Over the last 16 months Evan Fairbanks and I have been documenting NYC mom and pops that have gone out of business, and this story about a community saving a local bookstore was a beautiful change of pace.”

Christopher did another video on longtime local fish store Joon’s on its last day.

Christopher Ming Ryan is a Principal at Wheelhouse Communications, a video marketing agency. His Disappearing NYC stories can be seen on facebook at

NEWS | 10 comments | permalink
    1. Jason haber says:

      👍👍👍 so great

    2. Gaynor says:

      So very inspiring. Thank you New York for adding this strong heartwarming story to your history. I love Upper West Side and the action taken for the bookshop treasure is better than demonstrations and protests. It’s the power of goodwill and what good people can achieve when there is a worthy cause. Congratulations.

    3. Ilya Levkov says:

      The Left Bank of Hudson is intellectual, well and alive!

    4. Kevin says:

      This reminds me a lot of Madiba Restaurant in Fort Green, Brooklyn, which was temporarily saved by an Indiegogo fundraising campaign back in 2015 only to finally close for good in 2018.

      I don’t think that giving to a business is a sustainable way to keep strong businesses in the neighborhood and I would predict that this business will likely fail within the next few years.

    5. Ethan says:

      Beautiful joint effort. When we really want to do it, we can.

    6. chase says:

      i am a proud upper west sider seeing this effort done in the manner in which it was executed.

    7. robert says:

      I’m in a bookstore at least once a week and almost always have a book on me.
      Its great to see the community come out to support this indi bookstore. But that doesn’t really solve the problem. Unless more UWS’ers actual shop there this is only kicking the can down the road.
      I find it extremely hypocritical when on this blog and at other community and city-wide events everybody bemoans the loss of small business of all sorts. Yes, in the 70’s, even into the late 90’s there were a lot more small business’s on the UWS. But you and your neighbors are the reason they are no longer there. Before you post about greedy landlords stop and open your eyes. The next time your building puts out the paper trash for recycling take a good look at it. Its always in clear bags so the evidence is easy to see. Each week there are tons of boxes from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Fresh Direct, Zappos, Chewy etc. WE are the reason these stores are gone, as we stopped shopping at them. Yes, rents have gone up but if sales had not dropped off so much more might have stuck it out. If you want the small stores to stay show there. It is true that they may have higher prices but how much more is a dishpan or packet of screws at a local neighborhood store going to cost you? Perhaps as much as that 3rd Mocha Grande at that new “hub of the community” Starbucks. LOL Full disclosure here: I drink good/real English tea that is strong enough to clean barnacles off a boat not their overpriced bitter coffee with stuff added just to mask the taste.

    8. Bruce E. Bernstein says:

      this was an amazing community effort, and many many props to Bobby Panza (the activist spearhead) and Sally Martell (who gave the all-important, and large, “seed” donation to get the GoFundMe off the ground). They both make a great presentation in the video.

      Bobby Panza’s statement in the video is absolutely right. One of the best things about NY is the variety and even quirkiness of local “mom and pop” street retail. We are losing that, at least in Manhattan, and quickly.

      the Internet is playing a role in this, but the main reason quite clearly is the insane and even irrational spiraling of commercial rents.

      I hope the momentum from this effort can be channeled and continued in activism and advocacy on this issue among UWSers.

      of course, this was simply a band-aid solution: it can’t be done for every store that is forced out of business. the only REAL solution is legislative. We have to put some sort of cap on rent increases, and/or find some other way to set-aside commercial space that will be used for small stores.

      Call it “commercial rent control” and vilify it if you must. But maintaining affordable space for small retail is in the public interest and the interest of the city, very similar to the importance of affordable housing.

      The landlords must be reined in!

    9. Tim says:

      Feel-good story, but this is just a bandaid solution. Unfortunately, sales of used books cannot keep up with market driven rent increases and property values. Capping commercial rents isn’t a realistic solution either, that’s obvious.

      • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

        in response to Tim:

        Tim said:

        “Unfortunately, sales of used books cannot keep up with market driven rent increases and property values.”

        So how did this store stay in business for 35 years? Is it your argument that used / rare book stores can no longer survive on the UWS? It seems like you are then arguing that many other types of retail businesses will not be able to survive, either. that is a sad commentary.

        What do you mean by “market-driven rent increases”? “Market driven” is usually used to refer to the laws of supply and demand. But, there are so many empty storefronts on the UWS, meaning demand at current price points is down. according to so-called “market laws”, retail rents should be coming DOWN, not going up. (It’s also not clear that a proximate rent increase was behind the temporary closing of WestSider Books. I don’t recall reading anywhere about a rent increase.)

        What do rising property values have to do with anything? The store is paying RENT, not buying. Purchasing is a different market. The only relevance is that landlord speculators are apparently over-mortgaging, thus leaving spaces open for long periods on speculation, and to game the terms of their mortgages. The landlords can claim a higher cash flow from retail properties than they can get: the empty property is a high, though arguably bogus, POTENTIAL cash flow. For UWS landlords, 2 birds in the bush are worth more than 1 in the hand.

        Tim said:

        “Capping commercial rents isn’t a realistic solution either, that’s obvious.”

        Why is it “obvious” that some form of commercial rent control or commercial rent regulation won’t work? it existed in NYC from 1945-1963.

        Do you have a solution to offer, other than the continued destruction of Manhattan small retail? Manhattan small retail, varied and quirky, is one of the best things about NYC, as Bobby Panza noted. It sets NYC apart.