Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Old New York Bookshop: Treasured Memories


Early photo of Cliff Graubart at The Old New York Bookshop.
(Photo from The Old New York Bookshop Press)

This post is part of Julie Valerie's Fiction Writers Monthly Blog Hop. You can find the link to continue to other sites below.
 
     Quirky, independent bookshops are my favorite. Granted, I fall prey to Barnes & Noble as a great place to hang out on a dateless Saturday night. I can grab a quick snack, read my favorite magazines, and see what is trending on the bestseller list. However, my heart belongs to those small shops where the personality of the owner shines through. EagleEye in Decatur, a few miles from my house, is top on my current list. Tucked in a small strip mall, it is a splendid combination of used and new books, author signings, and other literary events. I met a date (one of those bad dates you meet online) there in 2009 to attend a screen writing class that was taking place. While the writers were mostly zombie fans, and I was in the middle of writing my widow memoir, it was a great fit, although I like to kid my story was the least gory of all.
     The best of the best, however, was The Old New York Bookshop, a haven to up and coming writers (who became famous Southern authors) in the 1970’s when I first moved to Atlanta. Close to where I worked, in the Midtown section of Atlanta, I stumbled upon it by a fortunate accident. Someone had lifted the wheels off my VW bug and I wandered around looking for a phone. I met the owner Cliff and fell in love with the shop, an old Victorian cottage, with lopsided corners and sagging floors. The many rooms, filled with floor to ceiling bookcases of used, vintage, and antiquarian books, rambled on like a maze.
     Cliff, a small, funny, Jewish fellow from New York, was (and is) as sarcastic as they come, but knew how to make you feel at home. Once I found the shop, I stopped by many times a month to visit on my way home from work. There was a rack of mugs for the regulars (yes, I had my own mug with my name on it) and a constant pot of dark black coffee brewing. I’d fill my cup, plop down on one of the comfy, broken-in sofas, and chat about my day. You never knew who would stop by and join in the conversation, but Cliff was entertainment on his own. (If you read this, Cliff, you know you were the funniest guy around and loved by all your friends.)
     The most memorable moments at the shop were the lavish book-signing parties Cliff gave for local authors who were just beginning their careers. Champagne flowed freely and laughter echoed late into the night. If the rooms became too crowded, there was always the front porch to sit and grab a breath of air and another glass of bubbly. To name drop, but I have to so you can see how fabulous these events were, I met the beloved Pat Conroy there along Terry Kay, Anne Rivers Siddons, Stuart Woods, and so many more of the local authors who became Southern legends over the years. The Old New York Bookshop was part of the literary history of Atlanta.
    Cliff still sells books, but mostly at shows and online. The renovated cottage now houses a trendy, upscale restaurant that fits the gentrified neighborhood. Read about the history of the shop in Cliff's own words on the Georgia Antiquarian Booksellers Association website.  Looking for books?  Check in with Cliff by clicking Contact info. 
     From bookshop owner, book seller, to author, in 2012 Mercer University published Cliff’s novel The Curious Vision Of Sammy Levitt And Other Stories. a humorous and touching tale of 1950s Washington Heights Jewish life.
    Visits to The Old New York Bookshop highlight some of my best memories from those early years in Atlanta. When I had a shop of my own in Old Town, Lilburn, Georgia, in 2011 (The Little Shop Of Arts and Antiques) I remembered those book signings of years ago and decided my antique shop should be a place for writers to hang out, mostly new authors that were self-published. For nine-months, we had a grand time with author events most every weekend. Then I moved the shop to the square in Lawrenceville, where we had more book signings and writing classes for another five months. Not a business person I ran out of money and closed the shop. Some day I hope to put those crazy times in a memoir, certainly not a how to book! 
     I pray there will always be book lovers who keep their shops open. Big name book stores  can produce the goods, but only small owner owned independent shops carry the heart and soul of readers.  

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