Cobble Hill Won’t Be the Same Without Literary Hub BookCourt, But Ex-Employee Vows to Open Another

Photo by Susan De Vries

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    Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, and New York’s literary scene are losing an icon.

    BookCourt, the neighborhood staple that has been open since 1981 and hosted readings from famed authors such as Junot Diaz and Don DeLillo, will close its doors at the end of this year. The bookstore was one of the premier places in the city for authors, particularly Brooklyn-based ones, to launch newly published books, and helped nurture the city’s literary community.

    The store was not pushed out by rising rents but, like many Brooklyn businesses of late, the owners chose to sell the building and close the business on retirement.

    brooklyn bookstore cobble hill

    The owners, Henry Zook and Mary Gannett, released a statement, published by DNAinfo, reflecting on the past three-plus decades in business, and thanked patrons for making BookCourt a special place.

    “We realize that BookCourt’s closing leaves a void in the neighborhood and the industry. We especially want to tell the neighborhood children that we will miss you. Your enthusiasm has been a big part of what made our jobs and the store so wonderful. Seeing you curled up on the bench, the couch, or on the floor reading, brought joy to all of us every day,” they said.

    BookCourt is the latest independent neighborhood bookstore in Brooklyn to close. It follows the 2015 closing of Community Bookstore down the block and the shuttering of Dumbo’s PS Bookshop earlier this year.

    brooklyn bookstore cobble hill

    However, the closure of BookCourt is by no means the end of independent community bookstores in Brooklyn. Former BookCourt employee and noted author Emma Straub has announced on her website that she and her husband, Michael Fusco-Straub, have secured funding to open a new bookstore in the Cobble Hill area.

    As well, Fort Greene’s Greenlight Bookstore opened a new location in Prospect Lefferts Gardens in the The Parkline development. Williamsburg’s Spoonbill & Sugartown opened a second store in Bushwick this year, and several other bookstores have debuted in Bushwick and Crown Heights in recent years.

    BookCourt’s building, 161-163 Court Street, has already been sold, a broker who requested anonymity told Brownstoner. The buyer was Eastern Capital, and it sold for $13.6 million, reported The Real Deal.

    brooklyn bookstore cobble hill

    With real estate prices so high in the borough, it can be more lucrative to close a business and sell the building empty than to sell the business itself, as the closings of Community Bookstore and 20-year-old Williamsburg home store Moon River Chattel showed. The Salvation Army has also been selling off stores, although it remains active in the borough.

    Kings County Nursery, a beloved local resource for gardening that’s been in East Flatbush since 1955, recently put its sizable property up for sale for $10.5 million in the booming, development-filled area. Then this week, the owners changed their minds and said they aren’t selling, much to the joy of local residents, reported local blog Q at Parkside. Junior’s Cheesecake did the same thing in 2014, ultimately deciding to stay put rather than take $45 million and close.

    When the Brooklyn Heights Cinema was forced out by the sale of its building in 2014 after 44 years in business, owner Kenn Lowry tried but was unable to find a new venue.

    “For the money these landlords want, I’d have to run a meth lab, not a cinema,” he told the Daily News. Hopefully Straub will have better luck.

    BookCourt’s last day in business will be December 31.

    [Photos by Susan De Vries]

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