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"

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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

book_marks • Strand Books, 828 Broadway, New York City With 18 miles (28.9 kilometres!) of over 2.5 million new, used, rare, and out-of-print books, Strand Books is a veritable book treasure trove. Named after the famous London publishing street, the Strand began in 1927 and remains the sole survivor of 'Book Row' (6 city blocks of 48 bookstores running from Union Square to Astor Place - can you imagine? 😍). There is an ever-changing plenitude of literary goods, gifts, clothes, and don't even get me started on the tote bags. This is the place where new and established authors alike will almost always have their book signing or appear for in-store events and dialogues. I've heard you can get married in the Rare Book Room, and that may just make this Broadway gem the most perfect bookstore in New York City.

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

girlinflorence 18 miles of books on Broadway, a comfortable chaos filled with new, used and rare reads which feels a bit like coming home. Before leaving #NYC, a visit to @strandbookstore is an absolute must. 📖 #guardiancities

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

baileyg1994 A little heaven at #thestrandnyc 🌃📚📚

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

bookishjourney i went to the Strand today in NYC with a friend and this is quite possibly my favorite part of the bookstore: the rare books. i didn't buy any (they're HELLA expensive), but they were really nice to look at (i mean, look at these spines 😍). i'll post my book haul sometime soon!

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

thesoundlife About to see Caitlin Moran! #thestrandnyc #caitlinmoran #howtobuildagirl

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

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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

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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

stephenoregan Great book reading with Russell Brand #russellbrand #thestrandnyc #revolution

From celebrity readings to celebrities at The Strand just browsing for books, the bookstore tends to teem with them.

So, if you're looking for a celebrity run-in during your time in NYC, don't try your luck at one of the prestigious clubs. Instead, just attend a reading at The Strand.

For instance, last year Amber Tamblyn was being interviewed by Ira Glass about her book of poetry Dark Sparkler, and America Ferrara was in attendance.

James Franco, David Sedaris, and Marina Abramovic have all been hosted during events at The Strand. Plus, Patti Smith even worked at The Strand in the 70s. Browse their events to see if the celebrity of your choice will be attending anytime soon.

Check out 11 Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Broadway

[Feature Image Courtesy Instagram] 

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