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Welcome to the Strand Bookstore. It's full of

Welcome to the Strand Bookstore. It's full of secrets! (Credit: Strand Bookstore)

culture

Secrets of the Strand Bookstore, NYC's literary haven

828 Broadway New York, NY 10003

With 90 years of history, over 18 miles of books and more than 200 employees, you know the Strand is packed with secrets.

The only survivor of Fourth Avenue's 48 "Book Row" shops -- perhaps because the store relocated to a more central thoroughfare -- the Strand is laden with NYC history.

Owner Fred Bass, whose father founded Strand Books in 1927, said the Strand's survival can be attributed to its vast size and selection, and "a great, really great staff of people who are very knowledgeable and take good care of the customers."

There's a lot about the Strand that gets hidden between the lines.

Here's a deeper look into all the pages that make the Strand what it is today.

Fred Bass, pictured here in the store in

Credit: Strand Bookstore

Strand's oldest employee is just one year younger than the store

Fred Bass, pictured here in the store in the 1970s, still works at the buying desk on weekdays, where he has worked since he was 13 years old in 1941.

"This is my semi-retirement job," he said. "I wanted to keep working and not go on a fishing trip for the rest of my life. This is where the fun is for me; it's like a treasure hunt! I find it very stimulating."

Work ethic runs in the family. Bass' father, Ben, started the Strand when he was just 25 years old, with $300 of his own savings and a $300 loan from a friend. Fred's daughter, Nancy, began working at the Strand when she was 25 and now runs the entire store.

In the 1980s, the Strand opened a branch

Credit: Newsday / Alan Raia

Strand used to have a store in FiDi

In the 1980s, the Strand opened a branch on Front Street similar to its Union Square shop that sold mostly used books. In 1996, this South Street Seaport branch relocated to Fulton and Gold streets, but it closed on Sept. 22, 2008, due to rent increases. Unlike the Union Square location, which has constant traffic, this spot was popular during lunch breaks and after work. Pictured, shoppers browse Strand Bookstore's outdoor display in FiDi on June 8, 1989.

Well, someone else's trash, maybe. When the Strand's

Credit: Newsday / Richard Lee

The Strand's used books are often filled with treasures

Well, someone else's trash, maybe. When the Strand's buying desk moved to the back of the store, employees discovered a treasure trove of old love letters, photos, article clippings and more, recalled first-floor manager Cale Hand. "We used to have buyers here who saved all of it and would hide it behind the books behind the desk, and when we moved our buying desk we found mounds of stuff."

Items like this are commonly found in used books sold to the store and some are repurposed by booksellers themselves, many of whom work additionally as visual artists, writers or musicians. Bookselling isn't a rare day job for artists; Patti Smith even worked at the Strand for a short period in the early '70s.

Credit: Strand Bookstore

Keep an eye out while book browsing: The Strand is a celeb hotspot

"Sex and the City" cast members are said to shop here often, and plenty of special guests have dropped in through the years, including Bill Clinton in June 2015. Julianne Moore (pictured) stopped by in 2009; many celebs also come as part of organized events and readings.

In the movie

Credit: Strand Bookstore

Strand Bookstore is also a popular spot for shooting movies and TV

In the movie "Remember Me," Robert Pattinson plays a Strand employee and even had a special name tag made for him in the store. Aziz Ansari also reads in the Strand in his Netflix series "Master of None."

Stella Williams, the Strand's children's book buyer, said

Credit: Melissa Kravitz

The Strand's fastest-growing genre is comics/graphic novels

Stella Williams, the Strand's children's book buyer, said that the comics section have almost tripled in the last year.

"A lot of teens come here," she said. Being just a block away from a movie theater, where books like "Me, Earl and the Dying Girl" play onscreen, definitely helps YA sales. The Strand temporarily had Effie's shoes while "The Hunger Games" was in theaters, and works along with Hollywood studios to promote books turned into movies.

The children's section is also home to a popular (and free!) storytime four times a weekend, where characters like Queen Elsa and Elmo (OK, staff in costumes) come out of books and into real life.

Armchairs on the third floor, which is oft-neglected

Credit: Melissa Kravitz

The best place to read is in the rare book room

Armchairs on the third floor, which is oft-neglected due to its accessibility only via elevator -- not the store's main staircase -- offer a nice refuge for readers. The Strand has one of the largest and most accessible rare book rooms in the country. The room is open to visitors to browse out-of-print and antiquated editions of their favorite books.

Currently the oldest book in the store was

Credit: Melissa Kravitz

The Strand's most valuable books are locked in a protective safe

Currently the oldest book in the store was printed in 1480 and is a commentary on the Psalms in German; the most expensive item in the store is an edition of "Ulysses" signed by both James Joyce and Henri Matisse, who did the illustrations in this particular edition, and is priced at $45,000, explained Jane Jaiswal, who manages the rare book room.

One of the most popular first-edition requests is for "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," which is rare. The last copy sold at the Strand for $15,000 about two years ago.

The most expensive item to ever sell at the Strand was Shakespeare's first folio, which sold for $100,000.

Private libraries, film sets and businesses are all

Credit: Melissa Kravitz

'Books by the Foot' sells and rents books by length, color and genre

Private libraries, film sets and businesses are all major clients of the Strand's curated book collection program. Clients can have the Strand curate lists based on their favorite books or interests, or just by the visual appearance of books to use as decor.

Aya Satoh said the Strand works with "Saturday Night Live" a lot, and will curate a selection of books for a sketch in a bookshop or library. She also works with period pieces to find collections dated before a certain date. All of the books are pulled from the store and no prop books are ever used in the Strand's collections.

Clients can also order books by color, and owner Fred Bass said that the most popular request is for all-white books, which are rare.

The basement is home to nonfiction, which means

Credit: Melissa Kravitz

If you venture into the basement you may stumble upon some witchcraft

The basement is home to nonfiction, which means tons of quirky titles. The occult section is located downstairs, along with books on magic, tarot, alien conspiracies, palm reading and much more on the supernatural. An employee says he's never witnessed any witchcraft rituals in the basement per se, though there are regulars who have meetings in the occult section.

On the main floor (pictured), you'll often find people congregating near the poetry or sci-fi books, if you want to make literary friends.

OK, so Gizzy can't really sell books, but

Credit: NewYorkDog via Instagram

The Strand's most popular bookseller is a dog named Gizmo

OK, so Gizzy can't really sell books, but she makes frequent appearances in the stacks. And on Instagram too. The 9-year-old maltese-pomeranian-shih tzu mix, owned by the Strand's merchandise director Lisa Jee, spends time in Jee's office as well as the store, helping to promote animal books and reading. You can find her on Instagram @NewYorkDog.

That's a lot more than 18 miles of

Credit: Mitsu Yasukawa / R.J. Mickelson

Over 2.5 million books circulate through the Strand every year

That's a lot more than 18 miles of books, but the Strand still uses that measurement for posterity. The Strand also has an off-site warehouse in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, that stocks all new orders and replenishes the store daily. The mileage is measured by the width of an average book spine (about 2 inches), multiplied by 2.5 million, which is closer to over 20 miles of books.

The Strand also operates two smaller Manhattan stores: one at the Flatiron Club Monaco, 160 Fifth Ave., and a Central Park kiosk at East 60th Street and Fifth Avenue.

First dates, proposals and weddings all happen among

Credit: Whitney Hu

The Strand is a hub for romance

First dates, proposals and weddings all happen among the endless pages of love stories at The Strand. Marketing director Whitney Hu has helped arranged special romantic moments, including the February 2016 engagement of this couple, Shmuel and Bailey, who went on their first date in the store's philosophy section. Nerdy speed dating and OkCupid-sponsored book swaps also occur at the Strand if you're looking for someone special.

While book reviews help determine what the bestsellers

Credit: Melissa Kravitz

The Strand's booksellers are secretly determining what's popular

While book reviews help determine what the bestsellers will be, the Strand's yellow tags are an iconic way to promote books that are perhaps overlooked by mega critics. Cale Hand, the first-floor manager, says he is an avid reader of contemporary fiction (he would read even more if he wasn't always at work), and often encourages customers to purchase several books beyond their original requests. It's not quite upselling, but good, personalized recommendation skills.

Take a harder look at the book carts,

Credit: Melissa Kravitz

Painter Steve Powers decorates the Strand's basement to his liking

Take a harder look at the book carts, walls, columns and pretty much anything solid that's not for sale -- it's artist Steve Powers' canvas. The New York painter even has a special paint cart locked in the store for when inspiration strikes.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said that the Central Park kiosk is located at Fifth Avenue and 50th Street. The correct location is Fifth Avenue and 60th Street.

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