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Bookstore Codex fills a need for East Village readers

Art and literary fiction are the focus of the new Bleecker Street shop.

On a balmy February afternoon at the corner of Bleecker and Bowery, pedestrians pause the hustle and nonstop New Yorkiness to engage with a newcomer.

Attached to neighborhood mainstay Think Coffee is a new independent bookstore, Codex. Following in the tradition of The Strand Bookstore, Codex has two carts outside stacked with books all priced at a dollar — commanding attention on this gray and windy day, when the main goal of anyone outdoors should be just to get where they’re going.

Inside, co-owner Robin Treadwell, 35, wearing the type of round glasses pretty much made for booksellers and sipping from a large blue cardboard cup from Think, helps a shopper who lives down the street look through an art book.

Codex, which means book in Latin, specializes in the two things downtown dwellers pride themselves on loving the most: literary fiction and art. A former manager of used bookstore Book Thug Nation in Williamsburg, Treadwell wanted to build a “strong literary fiction” collection in the store, and the art books she discovered while adding titles to the shelves offered a nice complement to the collection of novels.

Almost all of the books are used, sold to the store by locals for cash or credit. Though a table of titles Codex can’t keep in stock since its January opening, like Joan Didion’s “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” and Carmen Maria Machado’s “Her Body And Other Parties,” are purchased new from publishers.

Floor-to-ceiling wooden shelves stock the typical lightly-used bookstore selections: multiple copies of Bret Easton Ellis’ “American Psycho,” familiar best-sellers and book club picks from years ago. Special sections dedicated to literature about and taking place in New York, as well as a shelf of independent zines, round out the selection.

On a weekday afternoon, the narrow bookstore had a steady stream of customers, either lured in through the back of Think Coffee or via the $1 book carts out in front.

Students and longtime East Village residents make up most of the clientele. Treadwell says at least half of them mention how badly they wanted another bookstore in the neighborhood, especially since the longtime St. Mark’s Bookshop folded two years ago.

“The neighborhood’s really enthusiastic, we’ve gotten a super warm reception,” Treadwell says of Codex’s first month in business. “It’s been really great, we’re really happy to be here.”

FAST FACTS

  • Joan Didion is currently Codex’s bestselling author. Maggie Nelson is also a top pick. The title “Greek Homosexuality,” published in 1978, also sells well and is hard to keep on shelves.
  • Codex is building a schedule of nighttime readings and literary events.
  • The space Codex is currently subletting from Think used to be a restaurant, so the space still may not look familiar to those who’ve passed by countless times before.
  • The bookstore is located at 1 Bleecker St. For more, visit codexbooks.info.

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