News | Upper West Side

Harper’s Magazine invests in new UWS Book Culture store

  • Kiera Wood / Senior Staff Photographer
    NEW HOME | Harper's Magazine Publisher John “Rick” MacArthur, CC ’78, is investing in Book Culture's new branch on Columbus Avenue.

Book Culture co-owner Chris Doeblin hopes his new Upper West Side branch will help address declining sales at the two Morningside Heights locations—and Harper’s Magazine is giving him a hand.

Harper’s Publisher John “Rick” MacArthur, CC ’78 and a former Spectator trustee, is investing in the new store on Columbus Avenue as part of what both sides hope will be a mutually beneficial partnership.

Doeblin said that business at Book Culture’s two Morningside Heights stores has been in decline as students increasingly buy textbooks online. His solution was a new bookstore with strong ties to the local neighborhood.

“There’s a different bookstore model which is prospering and growing, and that’s this one,” Doeblin said, referring to his new store.

When he decided to expand, Doeblin said he sent handwritten letters to potential investors for the Upper West Side store. MacArthur wrote back.

“I was trying to get someone to do this for a long time,” MacArthur said. “I just think that the Upper West Side desperately needs an independent bookstore... I think that it would be good for Harper’s, too. It seems to be a good fit.”

As part of the partnership, Book Culture will promote Harper’s authors and host events at the new location. MacArthur’s investment will help get the store, which officially opened on Wednesday night, off the ground.

As Doeblin hopes the new store will shore up revenues lost to websites like Amazon.com, it is perhaps fitting that Book Culture is working with MacArthur, an outspoken critic of the internet.

MacArthur was on Spectator’s board of trustees until resigning this spring after the newspaper moved to an online-oriented model and reduced the print issue to once a week.

There’s also a more communal connection—both MacArthur and Doeblin live on the Upper West Side. In a speech during Wednesday’s grand opening, MacArthur said he felt a connection to the area because his French mother learned to speak English in the neighborhood.

Doeblin said there was a poetic justice to the fact that the Upper West Side branch, located at 450 Columbus Ave., used to be home to Endicott Booksellers, another independent store that closed in 1995.

The partnership is Harper’s first investment in an independent bookstore, according to Giulia Melucci, vice president of public relations for the magazine. MacArthur said he first started talking to Doeblin about the project about six months ago.

Melucci also said that MacArthur waited until after this Book Culture’s labor dispute this past summer, in which Doeblin fired and later rehired five employees after a unionization vote.

“He was not interested in getting involved until that was settled,” Melucci said. “He didn’t want to be involved in a bookstore that was having problems with the unions.”

Customers at the grand opening were hopeful about the new store’s future.

Dorothy Kauffman, BC ’84 and who lives near Lincoln Center, was a frequent customer at Book Culture’s Morningside Heights stores and is excited about the new store.

“I think symbolically, it’s a step in the right direction to make up for the tragic loss of independent bookstores––what’s supposed to be the nexus of intellectual activity in Manhattan,” Kauffman said.

Neighborhood resident Meg Parsont remembered shopping at Endicott’s closing sale years ago.

“The fact that these guys have opened in the same site––it’s actually quite poignant,” she said. “I’ve been catching these snippets of conversation that you don’t hear at Barnes and Noble.”

aaron.fisher@columbiaspectator.com  |  @aaronsfisher

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Anonymous posted on

What about the Morningside Heights location? The Columbus one is far away for students.

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Sonia posted on

I hope the 112th Street store will remain open. I love that store.

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