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7th Av Books set to close - Brooklyn Paper

7th Av Books set to close

Tom Simon, the owner of Seventh Ave. Books in Park Slope, is selling — or closing — his store.
The Brooklyn Paper / Mike Fernandez

A dog-eared Park Slope bookstore will close unless a buyer comes to its rescue before the end of August.

Seventh Avenue Books, purveyor of used Thomas Hardy novels, barely read art history tomes, and the occasional Kurt Vonnegut masterpiece, is for sale and will probably close within a matter of weeks.

“We’ve had a few people interested in the business, but what held them back was not knowing what books to buy,” said Tom Simon, the shop’s owner. “They knew fiction, but not much else.”

Business isn’t bad, said Simon, who has been in the book business for decades. Rather, he’s selling in order to deal with “a series of unfortunate family events.”

“There are a lot of things I’d like to spend more time doing, like being with my kids,” said Simon. “And it would be nice to have a life that is not as stressful” as running an independent bookstore.

Catherine Bohne, the owner of Community Bookstore of Park Slope, also on Seventh Avenue, called it “an insane amount of work.”

“You have to be thinking about it from the minute you wake up in the morning until the minute you go to sleep at night,” said Bohne. “There are a thousand other easier ways to make more money [but] it would be hard to find a better thing to do. You’re around people passionate about the same things, you get to talk about what you love all day long, it’s a relaxing and intelligent environment, and an environment that tends to promote thoughtfulness.”

That certainly describes how some patrons, like Miriam Molnar, feel about Seventh Avenue Books. Molnar has visited the store since it opened six years ago, around the same time she moved from Slovakia to Park Slope.

“This almost daily routine made my settling in much easier,” said Molnar. “I bought all of my Platos there. … I bought David Sedaris and my favorite Barbara Kingsolver books there, too.”

Molnar said her “heart is breaking” at the thought of the shop closing.

The bookstore’s only hope is that someone will purchase the business. Simon wouldn’t reveal exactly how much he is asking for, but he did say that the price is “approximately half what a traditional business valuation would be.”

Last Friday afternoon, readers seemed oblivious to the shop’s fate, wandering in and out while Simon sat on a bench in the children’s section, eyeing a fish tank papered with a poster of characters from the classic Maurice Sendak children’s book, “Where the Wild Things Are.”

Children raced toward the tank to gaze at the two fish — one of which has a cannibalistic tendency to eat those who encroach on its territory.

Throughout the store, friendly signs encouraged people to browse. “Get a life! (in New Biography),” read one sign, posted above biographical works like “Break on Through: The Life and Death of Jim Morrison,” ($6).

“Got thought?” read another, hanging above a box of philosophical treatises, including Herbert Marcuse’s “One-Dimensional Man,” ($7.50). “Accept the burden of history,” read a third.

Simon has been in the book business for decades. His first job out of school was at a book warehouse, and before he opened Seventh Avenue Books, he was a vice president at BarnesandNoble.com.

He opened his bookstore on Seventh Avenue, between Seventh and Eighth streets, six years ago. In 2002, Simon opened a children’s bookstore down the street, between Second and Third streets. In 2005, after the landlord raised the rent of the original storefront, Simon moved his entire operation to the same block of Seventh Avenue where his kids book store sits.

Even though his shop is almost across the street from Barnes and Noble, it turns a decent profit. Not necessarily enough to raise a family on, said Simon, but good for a single person or as a second income.

“I would prefer to see it bought,” said Simon, who lists Walker Percy, Stanley Elkin, and Kurt Vonnegut as his favorite authors. “I’m proud of what we’ve put together.”

If it’s not bought, Simon and his loyal patrons have at least one thing to look forward to.

“I’ll tell you one thing,” said Simon, who guessed he had about 20,000 titles in stock. “If we do go out of business, we’ll offer the best moving-out sale New York has seen in years.”

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