Founded in New York in 2004 by Sarah McNally, a former editor at Basic Books and daughter of Holly and Paul McNally, the owners of the Canadian McNally Robinson Booksellers chain.
The McNally Jackson bookstore café does not have Wi-Fi – which keeps freelancers and neighboring NYU students at a distance, making for a view: people talking and consumed with the immersion in a book. The wallpaper is made of book pages, and a dozen books hang from the ceiling. Books take up space, which in Manhattan has become valued amounting to a retail crisis. There is pending city legislation that would give businesses security, including the right to a ten-year lease, and the chance to negotiate rent increases with the help of an independent arbitrator. McNally Jackson encountered issues revolving around this. In 2018 McNally Jackson saw a $500,000 raise in rent at its Prince street location. The store’s annual rent increased 60 percent from $360,000 to $850,000. This brought the store to near-move. When the news broke online that the store would be leaving the Prince Street building it had occupied, panic spread on Twitter. After weeks of negotiations and online speculation, McNally managed to make a deal with the landlords and renegotiated a lease.
In a time and place where independent booksellers are disappearing, McNally Jackson in New York is growing. The bookstore was founded in New York in 2004 by Sarah McNally, a former editor at Basic Books and daughter of Holly and Paul McNally, the owners of the Canadian McNally Robinson Booksellers chain. The store operated as a branch of the Canadian chain, but in time, McNally, with her then-husband Christopher Jackson, decided to make it independent and renamed the shop, McNally Jackson. McNally Jackson’s flagship store is located at the corner of Mulberry and Prince Streets, in Manhattan, in the heart of Nolita – or NoLIta (for North of Little Italy), a neighborhood squeezed between SoHo, Little Italy, the Lower East Side, and Chinatown. The area displays the meeting of high and low culture: luxury fashion boutiques sit beside laundry shops; pizza parlors beside artist studios, gyms and wine stores. Nolita is the heart of ‘foodie’ New York, offering brunch spots, award-winning restaurants, and cafés. The neighborhood’s streets are busy on any day of the week with locals, tourists, and young professionals. On weekends, street vendors sell hand-made jewelry and artwork line Prince Street. On Mulberry Street, between an Italian leather shop, a tailor, and a cowboy-boots outlet, sit two McNally Jackson stores. McNally partnered with Goods for the Study, a stationery company, and opened two stores identical in size and décor. One is dedicated to pens, and the other to notebooks. McNally Jackson’s location in a trafficked spot, considering the founder’s business model is built on brick-and-mortar browsing. The bookstore sits around the corner from St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, and across from the Do Kham Tibetan boutique, with jewelry, fashion, accessories and antiques from the Himalayas. Expanding over 3,250 square feet on the ground floor, McNally Jackson’s bookstore includes a café, an in-house printing press which publishes hundreds of novels a month, and an Espresso Book Machine, which creates and binds a book on-demand.
While bookstores have cut back on inventory, to concentrate on events, stationary, or other branded merchandise, McNally Jackson have dug further with their book catalog. It is estimated that the Prince Street bookstore has 14,000 books in the literature section alone. Whether you would like to educate yourself in Arabic poetry, or read about the theoretical and practical implications of AI. McNally Jackson arranges their literature by geography, which is not a common practice in bookstores. You can browse from the Mediterranean shelves (which is a mix of Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Greek writers) to the neighbouring Irish and British shelves within the same gaze. French literature has its bookshelf, as does Russian. American literature abounds. In addition to the poetry collections, the classics, and published poetry names, the corner features a chapbook selection. Indie publishing houses, and small presses are on display. In January 2019, McNally Jackson debuted a location in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Housed in a former steel factory, the Brooklyn bookstore is a collaboration between Sam MacLaughlin, an ex-bookseller for the Prince Street bookstore, and McNally Jackson’s founder Sarah McNally. The Williamsburg outpost has gained a following in the months since its debut. In addition to the Nolita and Williamsburg locations, McNally Jackson is at The Shed, the arts center at Hudson Yards, on Manhattan’s west side. The Shed shop features a catalog of books responding to the art center’s programming, with selections of international literature in translation, contemporary poetry and essays, continental philosophy, issues and politics, and art and art theory. The shelves include recommendations from the Shed’s artists, curators, and program team. McNally Jackson’s location addition opened in September 2019 along the waterfront at 4 Fulton St. in a 7,500-square-feet space. The bookstore saw delays in the opening, planned for August 1st due to renovation delays and longer bureaucracy obtaining the liquor license.IMAGE GALLERY
52 Prince St.