Shakespeare & Co. Coming Home to UWS

Dane Neller, CEO of Shakespeare & Co., says the bookseller has plans for new stores on the Upper West Side, in Greenwich Village, and in Philadelphia. | Photo courtesy of Dane Neller

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVICDane Neller, CEO of Shakespeare & Co., calls it the trifecta: buy, commune, and create.

When the bookseller returns to the Upper West Side late this fall, Neller said, the new store will be a place to buy books, of course, include a café where people can commune, and feature an Espresso Book Machine — more on that later — so people can create.

For 15 years, a Shakespeare & Co. on W. 81st St. was considered an institution, but it shuttered in 1996, partly due to a Barnes & Noble branch nearby, according to a June 1996 New York Times article.

“Upper West Side’s terrific — it’s a great neighborhood of readers and writers,” Neller, the former CEO of Dean & DeLuca, said in a recent phone interview. “I always had a plan to go back… It wasn’t a matter of if, it was when.”

The bookstore at 2020 Broadway between W. 69th and 70th Sts. will be roughly 3,000 square feet, he said.

“We’re targeting early November” for the opening, Neller said, noting that was an estimate.

The Upper West Side store is part of a larger expansion envisioned by Neller, who bought Shakespeare & Co. with other investors around May 2015, he said.

The chain at one point had six locations, according to Publishers Weekly, but when Neller took over, there was only one Shakespeare & Co., on the Upper East Side. Renovating that store at 939 Lexington Ave. between E. 68th and 69th Sts. was the priority, he said, before growing the chain again.

That expansion is now afoot, with the chain opening up its first new store, in Philadelphia. Neller said the chain will open a coffee kiosk near the 68th St. number 6 subway station at Hunter College, which will have carts and tables of books outside. In addition to the Upper West Side location, a store will open on Sixth Ave. near 11th St. in Greenwich Village, which he said is slated to launch early next year.

Customers at the new Upper West Side location can expect a smallish store that will be “well-stocked” and “richly packed” with a selection of children’s books, and adult nonfiction and fiction, according to Neller. The café will serve beer and wine, as well as coffee, and there will be events including readings from local and well-known authors.

“We’re really trying to create a cultural center on the Upper West Side,” he said, adding that Shakespeare & Co. is trying to “bring back the old-fashioned bookstore.”

The store will also have a kid’s corner, tentatively called “Imagination Station.”

But perhaps the most intriguing feature of the new store will be the Espresso Book Machine, where children and adults will be able to print a paperback book in minutes.

On Demand Books, founded by Neller, Jason Epstein, and Thor Sigvaldason, is the company behind the machine. Espresso Bookstore & Café Holdings is the parent company of both On Demand Books and Shakespeare & Co.

Neller said the machine has gotten to a place where it is reliable and can make a book in three or four minutes. Armed now with a color printer, it can print millions of public domain titles and thousands of titles from publishers, said Neller.

A rendering of the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore slated to open on Broadway near Lincoln Center late this fall. | Rendering courtesy of Dane Neller

At the Upper West Side store, customers will be able to access screens to look up book titles, he explained. If a book is not at the store, but it is part of the machine’s list, it can be printed, he explained.

That is “another way to get people socialized to the idea you can go to a bookstore and [get] everything you want,” he said.

Neller noted that they are not quite there yet with every title, but are working on it. The future hope, he said, is that publishers allow them to print their lists in any language.

“We have a long way to go,” he said.

The machine also offers customers a bespoke option, Neller explained, allowing kids and adults the opportunity to print self-published books they have created.

Then, of course, Shakespeare & Co. can deliver what bookstores have always provided. They are for browsing — the opposite of what happens when you buy a book on Amazon, Neller said.

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