New York: Bookmarc
Marc Jacobs and Robert Duffy have a passion for books, so much so that in the age of digital reproduction they opened two bookstores, aptly titled Bookmarc in New York and Los Angeles, in 2010. The shops are boutiques in the best sense of the word, highly curated affairs featuring a deft mix of merchandise. Art and illustrated books sit side by side with a carefully crafted selection of literary titles include biographies, fiction, poetry, and cultural critiques. Interspersed throughout are charming gift items and tote bags produced exclusively by Marc Jacobs. The result is one that elevates the experience of book shopping into something more fun and fabulous than the dreary monotony of the Barnes & noble supermarket-style experience. Bookmarc is for gourmands who know exactly what they want.
Jennifer Baker is the Director of Bookmarc. She joined Marc Jacobs seven years ago, purchasing books for the retail stores. In the very beginning, the clothing stores carried a discreet selection of printed titled, more often than not books that Marc Jacobs had contributed to. As Baker recalls, “The initial brand related books sold well. Robert Duffy and Marc are passionate about books. As we expanded and moved into stores with more space we took advantage to offer a broader selection which reflected upon and expressed the brand.”
As the product mix in the Marc Jacobs boutiques expanded, dropping by the stores offered a rare treat. When placed alongside shoes and purses worth ten times their value, art books (which are considered to have high price points in the publishing world) appear very affordable. Intelligent and creative merchandising is what keeps clients returning and it is clear that the Marc Jacobs client admires beauty in all its forms.
Baker recalls the way in which books became a regular part of the product mix, observing, “We had so much fun ordering sexy new titles and merchandising them in off beat ways. Our enthusiasm spread to the clients and the collection continued to develop. Clients and employees would offer suggestions. It was a way to generate excitement in the stores and get people involved. People would hang out by the book tables so we introduced seating. It created a new vibe.”
As the appreciation for books in a nontraditional venue took hold, Bookmarc was conceptualized by Robert Duffy, President of Marc Jacobs International. As Baker remembers, “Robert had his eye on a beloved Bleecker bookstore which was moving down the road. When we opened [our New York location] we faced a great resistance. Slowly people saw that we offered unique, interesting titles as bookstores were dying. Shopping in a carefully curated bookshop with a friendly informative staff, touching the books and talking about them is not the same experience as pressing the ‘one click’ button on the Internet. We're very lucky to be included in a modern brand made up of many extremely creative people selected by Marc and Robert. The books reflect the energy, appreciation and passion of that experience. The client is drawn to the bookshops because they want part of the excitement within.”
Bookmarc possesses a distinctive style and taste that reflects both the classic and cutting edge. Their selection of books both reflects and directs the larger cultural trends, providing clients with an opportunity to take home that which has the deepest personal resonance.
To succeed in bookselling today requires a love unlike any other, for the traditional booksellers are faced with mass extinction because they treat Amazon as their competition. But at a venue like Bookmarc, smartly situated on Bleecker Street in New York and Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, there is no competition because the client is ready to put cash on the table. And much of this can be said for the experience of the stores themselves. They are intimate, personal experiences packed with eye candy galore. Walking into Bookmarc reminds you of when you used to go record shopping—it was that chance to pick up the thing that makes you smile each and every time you engage with it.
Much of this experience can be attributed to the Bookmarc team. They knows their client, and they provides. As Baker recalls, “It's been a learning curve. Initially in was all instinct. It still is but we pay careful attention to the sales. Poetry? SELLS! Cookbooks? Out of print treasures? Classic American literature? SELLS! Architecture, current fiction, music / art theory?Not so much. There is a lot of research involved and we've been fortunate to meet some very special people in the book world who have shared knowledge and contacts. The selection is varied but each section is tightly edited so hopefully there is not a lot of riff raff to sort through.”
It must be stated again. At Bookmarc, poetry sells. This is no small thing. It means the Bookmarc client is an aesthete above all. It means the person who comes to Bookmarc has a love and a passion for print, for the display of art in all forms. And Bookmarc is not without its own treasures, the events they organize to celebrate the release of books that their client base adores. They have organized events for the likes of Exene Cervenka, Glenn O'Brien, Tracey Emin, Jock Soto, Carine Roitfeld, Beck. As Baker observes, “Our clients look as forward as we do to these gatherings.”
In an age where everything is going digital, I asked Baker what did she think are the purpose and meaning of books in our lives to which she was perfectly succinct: “History. Beauty. Inspiration and Peace.” If only everyone felt the same way about the printed page.
400 Bleecker Street New York