Readers Are Leaders: 9 Facts You Probably Never Even Knew About The Strand Bookstore

The Strand: it's one of New York City's most famous independent bookstores.

It makes sense that it's famous. After all, it's been around since 1927, and it currently carries more than 2.5 million used, new, and rare books.

It's been the settings of TV shows and movies, it often hosts talks by celebrities who've written books, and it's basically the rockstar of NYC's bookstores.

With such a colorful history, that large a book collection, and that level of independent bookstore fame, of course The Strand has some stories hidden in its Rare Book Room section.

You want to know what The Strand's secrets are? No, it's not just that they host the hottest literary events in the city. There are plenty more secrets The Strand is hiding. Read on to find out what they are.

1. It was once a part of "Book Row"


Yeah, you know how you hear all about NYC's independent bookstores being forced to close down because of mile-high rents? Did you hear about how that situation is so bad that even Barnes and Noble couldn't survive in Queens?

Yeah, well, that wasn't always the case in NYC.


When The Strand opened in 1927, it was a part of what was known as "Book Row," which covered six city blocks and housed 48 bookstores.

Yes, that number sounds large to us, too, but it's true. 48 bookstores. Today, The Strand is the only remaining survivor of Book Row.

2. Ben Bass was only 25 when he founded The Strand


Ben Bass, the founder of The Strand was a mere 25-years-old when he started his modest, used bookstore.

Bass was an entrepreneur at heart and an avid reader, and when he started The Strand all he had was $300 of his own and $3,000 he'd borrowed from a friend.

3. The Strand is named after the London Street


No, it isn't an accident that the bookstore shares the same name as the street in London.

Bass named the bookstore after the London street The Strand because he wanted the store to be a place where books would be loved, and book lovers could congregate.

The reason he chose "The Strand" as the name for his store? Well, that was the street were writers like Thackeray, Dickens, and Mill once gathered, and where book publishers thrived.

4. Ben's son, Fred, learned the business at 13


Fred Bass was also a lover of books, and took fast to the book selling trade.

Fred completed a tour of duty in the Armed Forces, and when he came home to New York, he worked side-by-side with his father.


By 1957, Fred moved The Strand to its current location at 12th Street and Broadway.

Fred's daughter, Nancy, joined their management team when she was 25, and today, co-manages the store with her father.

5. Fred Bass is now only three years younger than the store


AM New York reported that Fred Bass still works at The Strand's buying desk on weekdays, so it's entirely possible that you've interacted with him and never even known it.

Fred Bass is 86-years-old, and since the bookstore is 89-years-old, the store is older than him.

"This is my semi-retirement job," Bass told AM New York. "I wanted to keep working and not go on a fishing trip for the rest of my life. This is where the fun is for me; it's like a treasure hunt! I find it very stimulating."


6.The Strand used to have multiple locations

Currently, The Strand only has one physical location at the corner of 12th Street and Broadway. They've also got a kiosk in Central Park at 60th Street and 5th Avenue, and they also sell books at Club Monaco on 5th Avenue.

In the 1980s, though, The Strand's geographical influence was more widespread. They had a branch on Front Street, and it sold mostly used books.


In 1996, the South Street Seaport branch relocated to Fulton and Gold Streets, where it stayed open until 2008.

Sadly, on September 22nd, 2008, the Fulton and Gold location was forced to close due to the damn cost of rent.

7. People hide artifacts in books

That's not surprising, is it? It's normal for people to write letters and hide them in books, right?

Well, whether it's normal or not, it happened. When The Strand's old buying desk moved to the back of the store, The Strand's employees found old love letters, photos, article clippings, and other treasures.

"We used to have buyers here who saved all of it and would hide it behind the books behind the desk, and when we moved our buying desk we found mounds of stuff," said first-floor manager Cale Hand.

We're not that shocked to hear that. The Strand is a beloved place, so it stands to reason people would leave beloved stuff there.

These items are most commonly found in used books sold to the store.

8.The Strand has been commonly featured in pop culture


The Strand has been featured in films such as Julie & Julie, and Remember Me, in which Robert Pattinson played a Strand employee.

The band Steely Dan sings about The Strand in their song, "What A Shame About Me." Joyce Carol Oates' short story "Three Girls" takes place at The Strand, too.


That's not all, either. The Strand was referenced in season four, episode one of Gilmore Girls, and it was the setting for part of the story Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn.

9. There are celebrities at The Strand often