After 35 years as one of the crown jewels of Brooklyn’s literary scene, Cobble Hill’s independent bookstore BookCourt will be closing down, as its owners, Henry Zook and Mary Gannett will be retiring at year’s end. The store, which holds both the 161 and 163 Addresses on Court Street, is a place to purchase anything from smaller publishing houses to larger bestsellers, and often houses signings and readings from celebrated national writers and local authors alike.
The shop opened up at 163 Court Street in 1981 before expanding to 161 in 1996; the shop has everlasted in its independent manner with national corporate competitors, and even continued its success with the advent and rise of online retailers like Amazon. There’s nothing quite like picking a book yourself from the shelves, and supporting a local independent, family-owned business that was built from the ground up. According to Gothamist, Gannett said that she didn’t know who would be taking over the space.
Via Gothamist, read the full statement from Zook and Gannett below:
To Our Customers, Neighbors, and Friends:
Since September 12, 1981, the day we opened BookCourt, we have been proud to serve this remarkable community. After 35 years of rewarding work, we have made the decision to retire from bookselling and close BookCourt. Our last day of business will be Saturday, December 31, 2016.
We want to thank our Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill neighbors for their loyal support. Against many odds, BookCourt grew and flourished in a time when many independent bookstores closed. It’s important to note that in addition to your support, BookCourt was able to thrive through economic and industry turbulence because we invested in the neighborhood and the real estate which housed the bookstore. We could not have survived the challenges of rent increases, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon otherwise, and we are thankful that we were able to provide this community with an independent bookstore for many years.
Along the way we were committed to reinvesting in the store and expanded it three times, most recently in 2008 when we built the “greenhouse”, which includes our event space. Gaining that venue gave us the opportunity to host authors, from the world renowned to local favorites, helping to establish BookCourt and Brooklyn as literary destinations. We are proud that all our events – from a small, intense panel discussion to a celebrated, standing-room-only book launch, to our legendary Harry Potter Midnight Release parties – were always free and open to the public.
We realize that BookCourt’s closing leaves a void in the neighborhood and the industry. We especially want to tell the neighborhood children that we will miss you. Your enthusiasm has been a big part of what made our jobs and the store so wonderful. Seeing you curled up on the bench, the couch, or on the floor reading, brought joy to all of us every day.
Along with thanking our customers, we want to thank everyone (and there are hundreds!) who ever spent their days and nights working as a BookCourt bookseller. We are proud that BookCourt was your landing spot, and have been moved by seeing it remain your touchstone; a place to which you return. We take pride in the many lifelong friendships (and in some cases, romances) we watched grow among you and which will outlive the store itself. You set us apart, gave the store its personality and charm, and have been its public face. We will always appreciate your dedication, patience, and good will that made BookCourt a very special place to be.
BookCourt has truly been a family business. Our accomplishments were supported by our parents (especially in the early years) and our children. Our son Zachary was BookCourt’s events manager and general manager through the crucial 2008 expansion, and in many ways he is responsible for solidifying our reputation and making the store what it is today. He dedicated his twenties to the store. As he moved on to other pursuits in 2014, we are now doing the same.
We encourage everyone reading this to find and support other indie bookstores, here in Brooklyn or wherever you may be. While bookstores do close for various reasons, we want to remind you that many more are flourishing and your support is vital to their success.
This is our only public statement about the closing of BookCourt. We know the store will be missed, and we are very proud of what we accomplished at 163 and 161 Court Street. We hope you’ll wish us well as we move on from what started as the dream of two 27-year-olds, and ended up exceeding all expectations, personally and professionally.
With our love and gratitude,
Henry M. Zook and Mary B. Gannett
BookCourt loyals may not be out of a beloved landing spot for long, however, as author Emma Straub—of this year’s Modern Lovers—announced on her blog that she and her husband, Michael Fusco-Straub, have plans to open up another independent bookstore in the area. Read some details from her post below:
When we found out in early October that BookCourt was going to close at the end of the year, we were truly heartbroken. In addition to being my former employer, and the site of all five of my book launch parties, BookCourt is a part of our daily family life. Our children know its every corner as well as we do. We’ve fallen in love countless times within its walls—with Jennifer Egan and Colson Whitehead, with Elaine Dundy and Paula Fox, with Iggy Peck, Architect and Ounce Dice Trice, with the right book for the right moment, over and over and over again.
A neighborhood without an independent bookstore is a body without a heart. And so we’re building a new heart.
We’ve spent the last few months looking at spaces, getting our math together, and thinking about light fixtures. We have secured initial funding and crossed our fingers. And so, dear Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Columbia Waterfront, and beyond…you won’t be lonely for long. Books are magic, and we want to make sure that this neighborhood is positively coated in bookish fairydust for decades to come.
Image via BookCourt Instagram