Volume 79, Number 26 | December 2 - 8 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Left Bank Books on W. Fourth St.

Rare-books shop’s owner is hoping it’s not final chapter

By Roslyn Kramer

A hole-in-the-wall W. Fourth St. rare-books store will close Jan. 31, another victim of a landlord seeking the kind of higher rents and glitz that are killing what’s left of the small, independent stores and variety in the Village.

To list just a few of the big names that patronize Left Bank Books: Tom Stoppard, Eve Best (award-winning star of “The Homecoming”), Mike Nichols, Tom Hanks, Patti Smith, Robin Williams, Sarah Jessica Parker and Mathew Broderick. Kim Herzinger, the store’s owner, said he’d supply more names, once he found his list.

Problems started when the new landlord inherited the building, between Bank and W. 12th Sts. According to reports, he has made trouble for a former cross-dressing show boy, now in his late 80s, whose taste is kitschy — fake flowers in flower boxes — but does favors for tenants in the building who are out all day. A tiny Chinese laundry that had been around for decades was given one month to leave. Herzinger’s supporters believe the landlord may want to tear down the wall between the bookstore and the former laundry to make a larger, more profitable space. Meanwhile, Herzinger can’t afford rents in the Village, or for that matter, Manhattan.

Tiny and utterly charming, only enhanced by a certain amount of disarray, Left Bank Books has been around since 1992. It gives a shovelful of class to a block that has three restaurants and its legal limit of bars. Herzinger has only praise for the two Marc Jacobs boutiques near him. Yet, he considers unprofitable single stores in a profitable chain like Marc Jacobs as little more than brand-name “billboards.”

Meanwhile, he said, “Everything I’ve got is in this store.”

Still, he’d welcome being another fashionista billboard.

“If he wanted to change the name to Left Bank Books by Marc Jacobs, I’d go with it,” he said.

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