Requiem for a Heavyweight: Crawford Doyle To Close

by Michael Gross Photographed by James Freund
Friday, January 6, 2017

“I’m 82, I got a good offer,” says bookseller John Doyle of the closing next Tuesday of Crawford Doyle, the Madison Avenue independent bookseller, one of the handful of remaining bookstores in Manhattan.  “It was a ten year project that lasted 21 years. We’ve really enjoyed it.”

Doyle opened the store at the end of a 36-year stint at IBM, and acknowledges the irony that bookstores everywhere have been driven to the brink of extinction by the internet.  “Behind it all is online shopping,” he says. “It’s a different retail business.”

Manhattan booksellers also have to contend with high rents. “It’s never been profitable,” Doyle admits of a business he describes as “break-even.” But love of books, authors and readers kept him there, and financial pressure isn’t behind the store’s closure, he insists.  “It’s just old age,” says Doyle.  “We’re getting on. You have to stop sometime.”  And an offer to buy the store from a retail condominium investor was simply too good to refuse.

Soon, Doyle suspects, his former premises will be occupied by a purveyor of expensive clothing. But on Thursday night, customers and staff came together to celebrate, Doyle says, at a drinks party that was “a rousing success, with only a hint of melancholy.”

But what about books, an author asked plaintively.  “The only one left [on the Upper East Side] is The Corner Bookstore,” at 1313 Madison Avenue, Doyle said.  “She owns the building. She’s the last of dying breed.”

EDITOR’S NOTE:  A reader notes correctly that the East Side is also home to the bookstores Shakespeare & Co. at 939 Lexington Ave. and a Barnes & Noble at 150 East Eighty-Sixth St.  We regret the omissions and urge readers to patronize all these fine book retailers.


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