P&T Knitwear Bookstore Coming to NYC's Lower East Side
|The future home of P&T Knitwear Bookstore|
P&T Knitwear Bookstore, an independent bookstore and cafe selling all new titles, will open at 180 Orchard St. on New York City's Lower East Side early next year. Owner Bradley Tusk, the venture capitalist and philanthropist who founded the Gotham Book Prize last year, and general manager and buyer Julie Wernersbach, a bookseller with some 15 years' experience, are eyeing a February 2022 opening date.
"He wants to give back to New York," Wernersbach said of Tusk, adding that he's a "huge reader" and "loves the city." The store's name comes from the name of a knitwear company co-founded by Tusk's grandfather in the early 1950s, which was located just a few blocks away from where the bookstore will open. "He wanted to pay homage to the neighborhood, and create a good bookstore for New York and the Lower East Side."
Another major part of the project for Tusk and Wernersbach is making sure that the store's booksellers are well compensated, have health insurance and are able to "make a real living wage in NYC." Given what the bottom line looks like for a bookstore, that could make for an "exciting challenge." Said Wernersbach: "We're putting our staff and community first."
The 3,000-square-foot bookstore will carry titles for children, teens and adults across all genres, with a particular focus on fiction and nonfiction about New York City. Reflecting Tusk's long experience working with and supporting start-ups, the store will also have robust tech and business sections. The space includes an events ampitheatre with built-in seating, and the store will have a podcast studio with professional equipment that community members will be able to use for free.
"That's a key piece of the project for Bradley," Wernersbach remarked. "He sees it as another service we can provide."
Asked about plans for sidelines and non-book items, Wernersbach said she's "very much scouting vendors" and trying to find items that feel right for the store. Wernersbach is "thinking about what our niche is" and identifying what the store can stock that's different; she pointed out that P&T Knitwear Bookstore is not far from McNally Jackson's NoLita location and down the street from the Tenement Museum, both of which carry some fantastic non-book merchandise. At the same time, she is looking to hire local artists to create some store-branded merchandise, and she said she'd feel remiss if the bookstore didn't carry some sort of knitwear.
On the subject of the cafe, Wernersbach said they're looking for a partner to come in, run the cafe and brand it. Talks are ongoing with "nothing firm," but the general plan is to offer drinks and a variety of grab-and-go food items.
Wernersbach recently hired Jahtiek Long as the store's community and events manager, and they've been brainstorming possibilities for future events. P&T Knitwear Bookstore will likely host some virtual events well before the store opens in February, and they've been kicking around longer-term plans like trying to organize a Lower East Side bookstore crawl for Independent Bookstore Day 2022. The bookstore team also plans to offer programming related to the business and tech worlds, and will use the podcast studio for author interviews.
Community partnerships also play a big part in the store's future event plans, with Wernersbach noting that Long is reaching out to organizations in the area. The team is "interested in bringing different arts together," and she stressed that the bookstore doesn't "want to be in competition with anybody" when it comes to these sorts of events.
Initially Tusk and Wernersbach had hoped to open P&T Knitwear Bookstore in time for Indies First/Small Business Saturday this year. Because of ongoing supply chain issues with construction materials, they decided to postpone the opening until next year. Wernersbach also had some misgivings about "what the book situation will look like" during the holiday season.
While Wernersbach is a bit sad to "miss the holiday madness," she's glad the store has more time to prepare and especially to get to know the community and learn about their neighbors. It's time to do outreach and "make those introductions," she said. "We can have all the ideas we want, but what does the neighborhood actually want and need? That's what's driving us now." --Alex Mutter