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McNally Jackson Books Finds Strength in Community Amid Turbulent Times

McNally Jackson Books, a staple of the NYC literary community, has undergone many changes amid a pandemic and a turbulent political landscape, though stability remains in their community’s profound love of literature.

Allison Glasgow, director of operations at McNally Jackson since its opening in 2004, noted that the transition to mostly online operations has been challenging.

“During the pandemic and especially the shutdown we’ve really had to become good at things that we never had to pay too much attention to,” she began. “We had a website and we sold books online before, but that was such a small portion of our business that it was easily managed. We’ve had to continue to reinvent the wheel month after month.”

Recent issues with the funding and operations of the USPS have been another area of concern.

“We always shipped books out of our locations, but when that became the entire source of our revenue, we found ourselves extremely beholden to USPS,” Glasgow began. “It was a bit tricky to explain to hopeful customers, but we did our best, as did the Post Service,” she explained, regarding issues of USPS shipping delays. “I feel a tremendous amount of gratitude and solidarity for USPS and what they’ve gone through.”

Glasgow, and the McNally Jackson team as a whole, are perhaps most grateful for the outpouring of community support.

“All of the strength that our customers have given us, whether from notes in their web orders, to in person words of hope and support– at times it’s overwhelming and the most important part of how we will survive.”

One such customer is Oset Babür, associate restaurant editor for Food & Wine Magazine. Babür has been a frequent patron of several McNally Jackson locations over the years. 

“I truly miss hunkering down at a tiny table with a coffee and a croissant and making my way through whatever book I’d recently purchased,” she shared, reflecting on her college years seeking refuge in the SoHo location. “I’ve also always found the staff to be incredibly warm and well-informed with recommending books based on what I’ve enjoyed in the past, and I always end up leaving with a new pen or two from the stationary section.”

Babür continued, “I love brick and mortar bookstores, they’re truly invaluable community spaces. Also, it’ll never not be a thrill to walk into a bookstore and pick up a copy of our magazine.”

Babür currently finds herself in closer proximity to their Citypoint branch, noting some changes in the locale.

“I’ve been back to the Citypoint location twice since it reopened! It’s felt like home, and I love the opportunity to see what’s on the new releases tables in person. The space is definitely emptier, but that’s out of necessity, of course.”

In the whirlwind of the last few months, both the McNally Jackson team and their patrons have learned a lesson in resilience.

“I feel so flexible these days,” Glasgow revealed. “McNally Jackson will be ready for most anything.”

Hi! My name is Monique Ezeh and I attend NYU, where I’m majoring in Politics with a double minor in Creative Writing and Journalism. I’ve long considered myself a storyteller and a self-proclaimed “truth-teller” (as pretentious as that sounds). I write about many things, some lighthearted and some not, but my passion for activism influences much of my work. When I'm not writing, you can probably find me binging movies under Netflix's "cerebral" tag, crying about Audre Lorde, or baking banana bread (or all 3-- I can multitask)! You can check out some of my work at https://linktr.ee/moniqueezeh !
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