11 May 2010

Skyline Books Resurrected in Tin Pan Alley!

Last winter, my favorite used book store, Skyline Books, closed its Flatiron District space after 20 years. I figured that was the last I would see of their peerless collection of old volumes.

Then a tipster alerted me to the odd presence of a first-edition bookseller taking up space inside a wholesale florist on W. 28th Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue—a block better known as the old Tin Pan Alley. I investigated.

Sure enough, at 51 W. 28th Street, in one of the more peculiar mash-ups in New York, bookshelves of first editions were placed between floral arrangements. I was an especially pleasing, if peculiar, spectacle. Can there be two more lovely things in the world than flowers and old books? And here they were together in one shop.

I looked to the cash register and saw a familiar face. It was Rob Warren of Skyline Books. He told me the florist has made him an offer to set up a book store in the flower shop, and he was trying "something different," a more specialized selection of rare books. The name of his new place is "Book Gallery."

I told Warren that his new book store was in a historic building, one that once held publishing houses important to the history of American popular music. He didn't know this, and seemed interested to find out more. 51 W. 28th Street was, actually, for two short years, 1905-06, the home of Paul Dresser Publishing Co. You can learn more here. And 49-51 together were once the home of M. Witmark & Sons, a hugely powerful music publisher 100 years ago. Learn more here.

Wouldn't it be cool, and appropriate, if Book Gallery began selling old sheet music from the Tin Pan Alley days?


Carol Gardens said...

This is so great. I noticed the books in the window last week because I take yoga on that block, but I thought it was just some flower guy cleaning out his own collection. I will have to stop in! The only indication that this was ever Tin Pan Alley is that someone has taped up a photocopied picture of Gershwin on one of the doors.

Mitchn said...

Hooray for Rob and Skyline, and a tip of the hat to the owner of the flower shop. Skyline was a pleasant (if smelly) oasis for Flatiron worker bees, and the nabe just isn't the same no that it's gone. The new arrangement (pun intended) is lovely, and I wish landlord and tenant many years of success together.

Anonymous said...

This is so great but I just
have a feeling the bookstore will
leave soon, the folks inside do
not look happy with each other and
the book part of it had no sign up
just a few xeroxes that are faded from the rain.
I would wish the city would put
up a sign about buildings# 41-55
west 28 street as to their importance
in NY History.

What is so strange about this area
is the lack of involvement with
the very expensive "Ace Hotel"as
they contemplate a bar named Tin Pan Alley" they should do something
about the survivors ,these old buildings,the real Tin Pan Alley.

J said...

I believe (reading another Tin Pan Alley posting) you meant to put "28th Street." I spent a good deal of time looking for this shop on 27th Street yesterday and it wasn't there; I couldn't even find a number 51. Oh well, next time I'll try the other block...

Brooks of Sheffield said...

J: I feel terrible you wasted your time looking for the place because of my mistake! I'm so sorry.

J said...

I had to come into Manhattan for something yesterday anyway, so I thought I'd make a little extra time for this. When I couldn't find the shop--or any shop--at 51 W 27th, I thought maybe I'd copied the address wrong, and hiked over to 151! (Not there, either.) It was not the best day to be wearing new shoes...

I know "everything" is available on the Web, but it still saddens me to see our secondhand bookstores disappearing one by one. I look forward to catching Book Gallery another day.

J said...

Well, even if I'd had the address right on Saturday, I wouldn't have gotten in. Book Gallery must keep the same hours as its host shop, which are Mon-Fri 7am - 3pm (as I saw when I went by after work today). I can't imagine, now, when I might ever get inside...

Samk987 said...

Thank you for informative story. Who know, maybe this bookshop may just find its best times ahead!