Last week, the independent bookstore Westsider Rare & Used Books announced it would be closing after 35 years on the Upper West Side. There was an immediate outpouring of support from locals and longtime customers, and owner Dorian Thornley noted that if they could crowdfund $50K, he would keep it open. And on Sunday, the GoFundMe effort passed that mark, ensuring that the bookstore will live to sell more used books another day.
“We reached our goal yesterday, the gentleman who started it is coming to take down the ‘going out of business’ sign later,” Thornley told us. “We have a lot of press here today, it’s gonna be pretty busy I think. I’ve only been open 10 minutes and already have half a dozen calls from different outlets. It’s pretty nuts. So yeah, we’re going to stay open as long as we can now.”
As for how he is going to use the money, he reiterated that part would go toward paying off back rent, part would go toward buying better books “New Yorkers didn’t know they wanted,” and part would go toward new advertising and marketing campaigns.
“I’m so excited that we’re still here and the community will live on,” employee Olivia Lucas told West Side Rag.
“Thank you to everyone involved,” said UWS resident Bobby Panza, who started the GoFundMe, and who previously told Gothamist he launched the campaign to show Thornley how important the store was to locals. “We all did it together. The donors, those who shared the GoFundMe page and the press who helped get the word out. We got this campaign viral! I’m in the afterglow sharing in the joy of a job well done. Pleasure working with you all. What’s next I wonder…”
Last Thursday, Thornley had told Gothamist that his crowdfunding comment “was an off-the-cuff remark, but it was also quite accurate. Someone started a GoFundMe page. If we get to $50K, then we’ll definitely stay open.”
Westsider Books fundraiser hits $50,000! Owner texts “PARTY!!!”https://t.co/Qb4xCVkHWm pic.twitter.com/Nm2p3K2hwH
— westsiderag (@westsiderag) January 20, 2019
Westsider, which was originally known as Gryphon Books, began as “a wheelbarrow full of used books for sale” before moving to the tiny storefront on Broadway between West 80th and West 81st Streets (Thornley took over as manager in 2002). The store has the feel of a classic, pre-Internet NYC bookstore, the kind where people have to carefully walk over piles of seemingly random dusty used books just to navigate the aisles, or to get access to the narrow staircase to the second floor.
Thornley added that the response from customers was truly gratifying: “We’re really amazed, we thought we were closing down, so everyone here is really bowled over. It’s just an amazing thing that these NYers and UWSers have done…the people have spoken, so to speak. Maybe it’ll be a turning point for the UWS.”