If you’ve lived in Brooklyn for a while and spent enough time in Park Slope and Cobble Hill, you probably noticed the two very different places called the Community Bookstore. The one on 7th Avenue in Park Slope is orderly and cozy, with warm lighting and an impeccably curated selection of books.
Then there’s the one at 212 Court Street in Cobble Hill, which looks as if the books were pushed in with a bulldozer. You never know what you’ll find in this other Community Bookstore, though the owner, John Scioli, might be able to lead you through the precarious piles to find your buried treasure.
For years, this charming eyesore has been a staple of Cobble Hill life, but if you didnt know Scioli’s story, you couldn’t help but wonder how long it would be before Scioli was forced to close — if not by the health department, then certainly by a rent hike.
According to today’s story in the New York Times, your prediction would have been half right. After 30 years, the Community Bookstore will soon be closing, because Scioli sold the brownstone for $5,500,000.
The buyers are three brothers who own retail space in Manhattan. They will most likely find a new, higher-paying retail tenant, according to the Times.
Scioli, a 69-year-old former cabbie from Little Italy, will have one year to clear out the bookstore, and two to clear out his apartment upstairs. As you might expect, his apartment isn’t much neater.
“I’ll be the first to admit I’m a bit of a hoarder,” he told the Times. “I was afraid I was going to die under a pile of books one of these days, and no one would ever find me.”
Scioli originally opened the Park Slope store in 1971 with his now ex-wife, Susan. They opened a second store on Montague Street in 1974, and when they were divorced in 1980, she got the Park Slope store and he the store in Brooklyn Heights.
In 1985, rising rents led to a showdown with his Montague Street landlord, who evicted Scioli in favor of an ice cream parlor. After some publicity about his protest about his eviction — a “meltdown” where he allowed several ice cream cones to melt on one of his sidewalk bookshelves — he decided to relocate to Smith Street, buying 212 Court Street for $500,000.
For many Brooklynites, the news of the closing will be bittersweet. For book lovers, there was always something magical about spending an hour in those musty stacks. If you found the book you were looking for, you felt like Indiana Jones. But it is really good news that John Scioli got a fair price for his building, and hopefully this will put him in a good place to retire.
And we always knew it would have to close some day. For Scioli, at least, this sounds like a happy ending.
Taking Stock (for Once), Self-Styled Hoarder Makes Lucrative Deal to Close Bookstore [NY Times]
Recent Commercial Transactions: 212 Court Street [NY Times]
Photos of John Scioli and the Community Bookstore courtesy of Melville House