McNally Robinson Booksellers

McNally Robinson Booksellers


Neighborhood: SoHo
Type of Place: Books

I'm really surprised that I never got to McNally Robinson before this
week. As a writer, a reader, and someone who regularly turns up to hear
others read their writing, I really should have gotten here a lot
closer to its opening, in December 2004. But now that I've found it, I look
forward to becoming a fixture.

This shop offers a fantastic combination: the size and convenience of a
chain and the individuality and charm of an indie. It is, in fact, an
independent business--except in name: Owner Sarah McNally runs this shop
on her own, but her parents own and run 3 of the same name in Canada.

Perhaps it's a less-glitzy, more homespun Canadian influence that sets
this shop apart in such a charming way. I was completely taken, for
example, with the typewriter (!) set up with a chair and a sign: "Please
share with us a memory of reading great writing...perhaps a passage that
drummed into you, or writing so beautiful it hit you like momentum,
falling page after page."

"Everyone who works here, part-time or full-time, has a section,"
explains Ryan, a staff member. Though the store does have full-time buyers,
staffers do some ordering for their sections as well as arranging the
books and displays. Ryan's sections, he explains, are poetry, gardening,
and history; and I've got to give him credit especially in the poetry
section, filled with gorgeous hand-bound volumes and small-press
collections that are rarely found elsewhere.

I linger and linger in the shop, finding more to love: the creative and
reasonably priced toy corner, to round out a gift for a younger reader
(or an older one, for that matter); the arty and eclectic greeting
cards; titles in the Teen section that boldly stray from status quo
(including "The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things" and "God and I
Broke Up"); the non-cliched music playing (from an employee's Ipod
playlist); the well-stocked cafe tucked in a corner. Even the magazine
selection was well chosen.

The store hosts 2-3 author readings per week. One warning: It's the
kind of place where you might mean to duck in and end up staying 2 hours,
or more. But it's worth it.

  - Pamela Grossman; April 2, 2006

McNally Robinson Booksellers
52 Prince St.
New York, NY 10012