UPDATED: Sad News for Booklovers

Monday, January 8, 2018

One of AVENUE’s favorite bookstores just lost one of its guiding lights. Fred Bass, the longtime owner of the Strand Bookstore, died last Wednesday at the age of 89. Under Bass’s proprietorship, the Strand was transformed from a small local bookseller to one of the city’s most iconic retail locations.

When Bass’s father Ben opened The Strand on Fourth Avenue in 1927, the area was home to Book Row, a six-block stretch of nearly 50 bookstores, many of them specialized to particular subject matter. By the 1960s, nearly all of them had vanished. But not the Strand. Bass, who took on a greater role in the shop’s upkeep in the late 1950s, expanded his father’s modest bookshop, moving it to its present-day location at 12th and Broadway, and grew its presence to ultimately take up four full floors. The intuitive, charmingly cluttered store design that came with that—including the extraordinary rare book room—helped burnish the store’s legend, and its famous claim to hold “18 miles of books.” Under his leadership, the store also established satellites in Central Park and Times Square. Thanks to Bass’s perspicacious management, the Strand was able to buck trends that hardly favored brick-and-mortar bookshops—both the demise of Book Row and the rise of e-commerce—and emerge successful. It is for that achievement, as much as his near-constant presence at the Strand’s book buying counter, that Bass will be remembered and missed.

Bass is survived by his daughter Nancy Bass Wyden (wife of Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon), who now owns the store, as well as a sister and three grandchildren.

Update: The Bass Family has announced that there will be tribute to Fred on Friday, January 26th on the 2nd floor of the Strand. It will be open to the public from 7 to 8 p.m.


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