"Differentiating" is a big buzzword in my office (and, if you work in the media, probably in your office too). 'Differentiating content' is always our goal. It's going to distinguish our outlet from the rest of the noise on the `net, and it's ultimately what drives our endeavor and it's what we do best. It's original and unique and you can't get it anywhere else. It defines us.
Well, as much as I decry the flagrant usage of workplace lingo outside of the office, I feel that it's worth asserting that New York City is losing its differentiating content. Between my comrades at EV Grieve, Jeremiah Moss' Vanishing New York, Bowery Boogie, myself and a clutch of others, it seems that documenting the jackbooted march -- nay, spastic sprint -- of avaricious urban development and gentrification has become a virtually full time occupation. The metamorphosis of this city is laying waste to more independent businesses and age-old neighborhood establishments than can be quantified. Whether its Pearl Paint or J&R Music World or your favorite corner deli or a restaurant that's occupied a particular corner since the days of Fiorello Laguardia, no single locale is safe, regardless of your individual predilections.
For me, the most recent one to really give me pause is Shakespeare & Co. over on Broadway, which has just lost its lease. It's one thing for comparatively "niche" operations like, say, a music shop devoted solely to extreme metal (Oh, I do miss you, Hospital Productions) to not be able to meet its rent, but for a lovingly stocked bookstore on a well-traveled avenue? That doesn't just depress me, it SCARES me.
Obviously, it's a combination of factors that's causing this. In an environment where most folks are procuring their reading material -- if they're reading at all -- via Amazon or downloading stuff onto their stupid devices (screw you, Kindle & Nook users), every book store is in serious goddamn trouble, from the mom'n'pops through to your major chains. In this instance, however, I think it's simply the bugfuck insane New York City real estate market that's to blame, and there's no possible way on God's wretched earth that Shakespeare & Co. can match the rent some other businesses are able to pay. As such, they are being forced to forfeit.
Again, though, in an ideal world, a bookstore (like a library) serves EVERYONE. It's not a "niche" operation, unless you consider "reading" a "niche" activity, in which case you should be put down like a crippled pony. Not only is Shakespeare & Co. a bookstore, it's a beautiful bookstore, staffed by knowledgeable folks and stocked to the rafters with every type of text imaginable. Unless I'm late to arrive at a specific destination, I've never been able to walk past the store without stopping in, even if I'm not looking for anything in particular, and I've always been struck by something new when I'm there. Its selection of children's books is as lovingly cultivated as its supply of far-flung filmographies and esoteric rock bios. From erotic fiction through esoteric academia to tomes about the occult to coffee table books dedicated to eye-popping photography, there is absolutely no shortage of compelling reading material at Shakespeare & Co. If you've never been, you're living a life dimmed by a paucity of excellence.
And soon, it'll be gone, inevitably to be replaced by a bank or a frozen yogurt emporium or a Starbuck's.
The landlords to blame deserve a few rigorous punches in the balls.