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Village Works Book Shop

12 St Marks Pl
Village Works Book Store Bookstores East Village

In a city always on the cusp of change, certain havens embody the essence of the classic, idiosyncratic New York. Village Works Book Store on St Marks Place is one such retreat. Relocating earlier this year from its E 3rd Street location, the bookstore has become an organic part of its new setting — with a historic edifice from 1889 that was formerly the German American Shooting Society Clubhouse. Joseph Sheridan, the shop's proprietor, is a longstanding patron of New York City’s artistic and cultural scene, with a resume that includes everything from the Café Con Leche dance party to the Urban Works gallery. Village Works is the ultimate expression of his commitment to the city's culture, featuring an eclectic range of 5,000 titles that largely focus on New York’s art, history and literature.

The pandemic-induced exodus of tourists, students and wealthy residents revealed an opportunity to Sheridan. It was the ideal climate to unveil a bookstore aimed at documenting and celebrating this cultural resurgence. Starting with 2,000 books from his personal collection, Village Works has since expanded to include self-published works and donated titles. Far from being just a bookstore, Village Works also serves as a gallery, and it regularly hosts events, book signings and fashion and retail collaborations, challenging the widely held belief that contemporary audiences are disinterested in New York's rich cultural history.

Village Works is more than a retail space; it's a dynamic cultural hub. The scope of the bookstore has broadened from its initial emphasis on Village artists to include the wider New York City creative community. This commitment is evidenced by the store’s growing inventory, a series of art exhibitions complete with catalogs — and even foraying into publishing.

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Village Works Book Store  Bookstores East Village
Village Works Book Store  Bookstores East Village
Village Works Book Store Bookstores East Village

More Bookstores nearby

Lost Gem
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Pageant Print Shop

Pageant Print Shop’s entirely glass storefront bordered by light blue is instantly eye-catching and proudly displays the treasure within. Inside its bright, buttercream interior, an immense assortment of old prints and maps line every wall and fill neatly-labeled display racks. This sanctuary of beautiful historical pieces was created by Sidney Solomon and Henry Chafetz in 1946. It was originally one of the many second-hand book stores on Fourth Avenue, an area that was then known as “Book Row. ” Now under the leadership of Sidney’s daughters, Shirley and Rebecca, Pageant Print Shop primarily sells old prints and is thriving at its current 4th Street location. Having worked with historic pieces her whole life, Shirley knows how to get the best prints. She has amassed her impressive collection from antique book auctions as well as other various sources that she has built up over the years. Roger, who has been working at Pageant Print Shop for over a decade, told Manhattan Sideways that “what we are looking for are old books with the bindings broken that are really not in very good shape on the outside, but still have good quality prints, maps, or illustrations on the inside. ” Although they search for old books based on the contents within, the shop also sells the old bindings for creatives looking to make decoupage and other fun art projects. Pageant Print Shop is definitely a fixture in the East Village, and in the words of Roger, is “one of those neighborhood jams. ” They enjoy “a loyal group of people that have been coming here for eons, " tourists looking for something authentically New York City, and neighborhood people walking by. He told us that newcomers are often “surprised that they are able to buy a piece of history, ” and return for more of their authentic, beautiful, and historic prints. Pageant Print Shop is unique in its extensive, high quality, and affordable selection. Roger affirmed that “It’s going to be hard for you to find someone who has this kind of a collection at these kinds of prices — it’s just true. ”

Lost Gem
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Pillow-Cat Books

Tucked into a cozy storefront on E9th Street, Pillow-Cat Books is — for any literary-minded animal lover — the cat’s meow. Guarded by the shop’s namesake cat, the bookstore opened by author Cleo Le-Tan is the city’s first animal-themed bookshop, offering new, used and vintage books across genre and language with one uniting theme — at least one animal or animal character within its pages. Cleo, a New York-based writer and the daughter of famed New Yorker illustrator Pierre Le-Tan, was inspired to open Pillow-Cat Books in September 2021 after working on A Book Lover’s Guide to New York, itself a charming tribute to the Big Apple’s best independent bookstores. “I interviewed people who have bookshops, and then I realized, ‘Oh, I want my own! ” she told the Manhattan Sideways team when we happened upon her eclectic collection one sunny Friday. She began to curate and source a stock of animal-themed works, finding special joy in hard-to-find tomes from years past. “I love vintage children’s books from the 1950s and 1960s, ” said Cleo, surrounded by books available to shop by category of animal as well as subject matter. Cleo told Manhattan Sideways that settling down in the East Village on 9th Street among the block’s many other speciality retail shops was one of her favorite parts about running Pillow-Cat. “I think it's a really nice block — I like how many independent, unique shops there are, ” she noted. “It’s a fun block because you get people coming from Tompkins Square Park who are friendly and local, but you also get visitors. ” We’d have to agree — as we browsed the shop, we already noticed several grateful visitors building their own stacks, making sure to give Pillow-Cat a pet on their way out. 

Lost Gem
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Bonnie Slotnick

With a bowl sitting on the floor labeled “Dog, ” a small children’s table set with books slightly ajar, and a wooden drying rack covered in aprons, walking into Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks is like entering a well-kept early twentieth century home. Out back is a casual collection of lawn chairs surrounded by greenery, the perfect place to sit and chat or get lost in a good book. We were guests first and customers second, peering at the shelves of authentic cookbooks adorned with spatulas, match boxes, teddy bears, rolling pins, a type-writer, an antique Hope Pride oven, and other trinkets under the domain of kitchen and library. More than a store of antiquarian cookbooks, Bonnie Slotnick offers an experience. The space is active, inviting you to delicately handle the old kitchenware, fumble through the books, and fraternize with Bonnie. The more we spent time with Bonnie, the more we realized how interdependent Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks and Bonnie Slotnick are, each filling the other, and those around them, with life and breath. Bonnie started collecting books, which she strongly distinguishes from the stocking she does for her store, when she attended Parsons School for Design. After graduating, she began her career in publishing. (She is still a freelance editor to this day, though her customers may not realize it). In 1984, she took on the side job of looking for books to help stock Kitchen Arts and Letters, where scouting out books became as much a mission as a hobby. When Bonnie picks up a used cookbook, she first looks for the aura. She fumbles through the pages, catches the familiar old book smell, and senses the synergy of the words, illustrations, and typefaces: the book as a complete object. She told me that she often feels like she is saying, “Oh there you are old friend, you nice old friend! ” She picked up The American Woman’s Cookbook, first published in 1938, which featured a hologram-like cover, thumb index, and photographs sourced from marketing campaigns. “This is a wartime edition, published in 1942, ” she explained, “…things like sugar, fat, and white flour had to be rationed. ” She went on to show me some of the cooking utensils in her shop – a rotary egg beater, a tomato slicer, and some tools to make butter, amongst others. The Manhattan Sideways team agreed that they were reminiscent of pieces we had in our own homes growing up, a nuanced nostalgia that made our first visit to Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks both comfortable and familiar. Her passion in showing us the cookware and books not only fueled our own interest, but also engaged others wandering around shop. They could not help but listen to what Bonnie had to say, her eyes smiling the whole way through. Aside from books, what Bonnie wanted to talk about most was her supporting community. Though she at first feared the East Side, viewing it as an entirely different environment than the West, she now is familiar enough with the neighborhood that she could not stop listing other small businesses that she admires nearby, wishing to promote each one of them. Her website even has a section called The Neighborhood, where she promotes other bookstores that she hopes will be as successful as hers has been. These are not her competitors, but her friends. Nothing is more revealing of Bonnie’s character than her immense appreciation for her current landlords. Bonnie has lived on West 10th street since the mid 1970s, and when she lost her lease on her old West Village bookstore location in 2014 after being in business for seventeen years, she was devastated. Luckily, in 2015, Margo and Garth Johnson stepped in, offering her a lease on a commercial space in their house. Book lovers themselves, the two have adopted Bonnie into their community and saved her dream of “keeping bookstores and a love of reading alive. ” They also adopted a dog, which Bonnie admits was as much for her as it was for them. Bonnie’s new lease offers ten years of permanence, rather than the three of her previous one. The new space is also three times the size of the old. With more room, supportive landlords, and a sense of stability, Bonnie is able to diversify the use of her space. She is now open to hosting literary and culinary gatherings, such as book clubs for food literature. She also hopes to expand her stock of books when she accumulates enough funds. The supply is certainly there: potential sellers often send her pictures of books they would like her to buy. Bonnie goes to work six days a week. She says, “Each day I create something. My store is my art. ”

More places on 8th Street

Lost Gem
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Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor

What a find... down a flight of stairs from street level on 8th Street, Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor is the "antithesis of a sports bar. " Artisan and craft beer are brought together in a friendly environment that certainly had us feeling like we were right at home. The Parlor is also named for the Arts and Crafts movement, “a cultural revolt against the ideals of industrialization. ”When we visited, we spoke to Robert, one of the two owners, with whom we thoroughly enjoyed chatting. Robert is an internationally recognized speaker and writer on dining out and traveling with special diets (he co-authored the series Let’s Eat Out! ), and he also has a background in acting and producing on Broadway. He told us that the other owner, Don, has an impressive resume working with the FBI and counterterrorism efforts both in New York and around the world - which left us wondering what brought this dynamic duo together as friends and eventually co-owners. Robert informed us it was a love of American Craft Beer and the visual and performing arts... and that they actually met enjoying a pint of beer in Manhattan. Just as intriguing as its owners, the interior of Arts and Crafts is beautifully designed; the sophisticated wallpaper is custom made by Bradbury and Bradbury, and the soft green and beige pattern was Frank Lloyd Wright’s favorite, supposedly. The constantly changing art is displayed along the wall opposite the bar, and an exposed brick wall and fireplace give the parlor a true “extension of your living room” feel. Described by Robert, as the “Bugatti of beer systems, ” the twenty plus beers the Parlor keeps on tap rotate monthly and are kept by this state of the art system at a refreshing 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Robert also astounded us with how small the carbon footprint of the Parlor is — he told us they are very conscious of keeping things compostable and earth-friendly. In addition to their rotating display of art from both established and up-and-coming artists, the Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor also hosts a monthly lecture series on the subjects of art as well as culinary topics. We could not get enough of how interesting this place is — both the concept of art and beer coming together and the two fascinating minds behind it.