Strand History

90 Years and 18 Miles of Books and Counting: The History of Strand Books


Where it all began: Bound by a Family

The Strand was born in 1927 over on Fourth Avenue on what was then called “Book Row.” Book Row covered six city blocks and housed forty-eight bookstores. Ben Bass, the father, was all of twenty-five years old when he began his modest used bookstore. An entrepreneur at heart and a reader by nature, this erudite man began with $300 dollars of his own and $300 dollars that he borrowed from a friend. Ben sought to create a place where books would be loved, and book lovers could congregate. He named his bookstore after the London street where avant-garde writers like Thackeray, Dickens and Mill once gathered and interesting book publishers thrived. The Strand quickly became a Greenwich Village institution where writers went to converse, sell their books and find a hidden treasure to buy. Today, the Strand is the sole survivor of Book Row’s colorful past.

Ben’s son, Fred, was learning the family business by the age of 13. He too a lover of books quickly took to the book trade. After Fred completed a tour of duty in the Armed Forces, he came home to New York where he worked side-by-side with his father. By 1957, Fred moved the store just around the corner, to our current space at 12th Street and Broadway. Fred came to spend most of his time at the buying desk, cultivating relationships with regulars and scoping out the next great find…

The next in the Bass family to take to the business was Fred’s daughter, Nancy. After college and a short stint in Louisiana, she came back to her roots and joined the Strand team at the age of 25. Today, she manages the store and is honored to carry her family's 90 year legacy forward. The jury’s still out on whether one, two or all three of Nancy’s kids will be next in line to join the Strand team.

Where we stand today: Guided by the Customer

Today, the Strand carries over 2.5 million used, new, and rare books, covering topics as far-ranging as occult to philosophy to finance. The store also offers an ever-changing array of literary gifts and goods from Moleskines to coffee mugs, and everything in-between. Really, we mean everything in-between, from a Shakespeare insult mug to the wildly popular Strand onesie.

Our employees are not only knowledgeable about books but they’re also passionate about them. Not only can they help you find a book, they can also recommend something you might love if you give them a quick description of your literary tastes. With our famous dollar carts outside you can always find a gem but that doesn’t mean there’s not a hidden treasure inside the store, like a beautiful Rabelais for $15. Strand continues to house old treasures for reasonable prices while offering one of the largest, most diverse selections of books in the country.

Our in-store events feature some of today’s most interesting and provocative personalities, from James Franco to Patti Smith and dialogues between such greats as Junot Diaz and Hilton Als. If you are looking for a relaxed, intimate evening where you’ll be both engaged and entertained, we have the programming for you.

Where we’re going: Driven by You

In all seriousness, at the Strand, you, our booklovers, are our number one priority. As we change and grow with the times, we will never lose sight of our roots – we are a community bookstore first and foremost. We are forever invested in you and want to make your shopping experience with us a memorable, enjoyable and easy one. The Strand is a place where books are loved and book lovers of all kind are always welcome.

Strand History Fred with an oil painting of himself painted by artist Max Ferguson.