At the corner of 1st and E. 3rd, a sandwich board points the way west. It reads: Village Works. Books. Art. Collabs. NYC.
While the Pandemic took its toll on retail and restaurants—long-time favorites, new enterprises, and chain branches, now empty storefronts lining Broadway, Bleecker Street, and all over the city, when a new shop emerges out of the Pandemic ashes—it’s something to celebrate.
A bright, former architects’ office is Village Works, a new bookstore that opened in February and specializes in books all things New York City—all genres of the art and artists creating in New York City.
Village Works owner Joseph “Joey” Sheridan loves books that document and celebrate the artistic soul of the city. Acquiring these sorts of books for a while, he amassed a collection and thought, “I should share them with the public.” And thus the beginnings of a shop devoted to all books tethered to NYC culture.
No stranger to the book biz, Sheridan worked at Rizzoli for a stint over 20 years ago and later, sold online used books with his mom, a business that did well until Amazon and its free shipping put it under.
Embedded in street culture, years back, he hosted the weekly multi-gendered/race dance party —Café Con Leche and then ran Urban Works gallery featuring street art on Mulberry Street. But, more recently when considering opening a bookstore his friends opined, “People aren’t interested in history and the culture of New York.” And then a possible window of opportunity opened.
Rich people and students left the city. Tourists vanished. “I realized the City was still here. New New Yorkers had smothered it and they left. With COVID, the City was filled with working-class folks, no deep pockets, trying to survive just like me. Covid helped do a reset.”
There was a revival of street culture by New Yorkers, by those trying to adapt to a new environment. Looking at street culture was no longer a historical nostalgic exercise. Rather than communicating corporate America that was the City’s cultural direction in pre-Pandemic NYC, city artists were expressing their dreams.
“If I sell books it has to be a niche market,” Sheridan reflects, expanding his initial concept of carrying books of “Village” artists to all NYC creatives. And, starting with 2000 books from his personal collection, he currently offers 5,000 distinct titles, with a selection growing. Sheridan buys self-published books and books on the cheap and accepts donations.
Availing this beautiful space for more commercial activities also helps pay the rent. “It’s a bookstore and gallery, and we engage in collaborations—clothing drops (launch parties)—fashion and retail,” Sheridan hoping that most of the “collaborators” are sympathetic with his mission promoting New York street culture.
As a gallery Village Works has mounted seven shows and has published catalogs for each, on sale, $20. “We just published our first book by photographer Kurt Boone who is showing now. The closing party is this Thursday.”
“People can come here and know what they will find,” Sheridan elaborates.
A tall masked young man wanders into the shop, having seen the sandwich board on the corner, and immediately finds a book he buys. “Spy is my artist name,” he says handing out a postcard with murals he’s painted in San Francisco.