18 More Miles of Books

The Strand opens first Upper West Side location after COVID delay

15 Jul 2020 | 04:35

On April 3 of this year, Nancy Bass Wyden, owner of the Strand, had planned to open the bookstore’s new location on the Upper West Side. Halted by COVID, she was forced to delay the opening.

“It’s been very challenging. You have to make the most of things,” Bass Wyden said. “We’re doing virtual events now. We’ve had a shift to that. It’s taken us a while to find our way.”

Now, three months later, the Strand seems to have found their way, and they succeeded in opening the new store on 450 Columbus Ave on Wednesday, July 15.

“It’s a beautiful store,” she said. “We have a custom-made neon sign. We did accent colors with red, the red door, the red in the back.”

It’s been a long time coming. The Strand was founded in 1927 by Ben Bass, and originally lived between 10th & 11th Streets and Fourth Ave. on “Book Row,” which, according the Strand’s website, “covered six city blocks and housed forty-eight bookstores.” The Strand’s current downtown location is East 12th St. and Broadway.

After Ben Bass, the store was taken over by Fred Bass, Nancy Bass Wyden’s father. Before her father died two years ago, he and Bass Wyden had looked at locations on the Upper West Side, but it had yet to happen. Now, Bass Wyden is opening this location as the sole Bass family owner of the Strand’s multi-generational legacy.

“We have come across other bookstores in the past,” she said, citing the various locations, pop-ups, and kiosks the Strand has made their mark at. “But never the Upper West Side. This is exciting to me because this is my first bookstore without my dad.” The new location was previously the home of Book Culture on Columbus Ave., which closed in January of this year due to financial struggles.

“They Left Post-It Notes”

Bass Wyden has adapted the business to COVID protocol. Only 20 people can be in the store at a time, they have plexiglass in front of the registers, and they now sell face masks. Despite the ever-present knowledge of COVID, the neighbors are ready and waiting at the bright red door.

“Everybody’s stopping by, everybody’s saying, ‘I can’t wait until you open.’ We’ve had people knocking on the windows, they left Post-It notes on it,” she said. “Right now, we have to keep opening up the door and talking to them.”

The new store has all the iconic Strand staples its customers would expect: carts outside with bargain books, tables with the “best of our best,” rare books, used books, and a large kids section. Since the new location is so close to the American Museum of Natural History, in the basement, they set up a “Space-themed” reading nook as an homage to the museum.

“I want to get people back to shopping again, and enjoying the feeling of human to human interaction, which we all miss,” Bass Wyden said. “The sense of community ... the serendipity of going into a store and finding a book that you didn’t know about, away from their devices.”

The Strand is a famous New York City landmark, and it has stood the test of time.

“It’s about time,” Bass Wyden said. “We’ve made it to the Upper West Side after 93 years.”

“I want to get people back to shopping again, and enjoying the feeling of human to human interaction, which we all miss.” Nancy Bass Wyden, owner of The Strand