As Ithaca’s ever-changing downtown evolves again, The Bookery will close its doors this fall. The Bookery was a spot where serious scholars and eccentric bibliophiles could enjoy rare and uncommon books side-by-side, but the 45-year-old landmark will be lost soon.
In 1975, Ithaca resident Jack Goldman — who spent a year as a graduate student at Cornell in 1967 — opened The Bookery, now located in the Dewitt Mall.
“I started out actually in science and chemistry and then I interrupted that and went to Europe and that’s where I started to read more literature and fell in love with a lot of writers,” Goldman said. “Even in highschool, I worked for one of the great booksellers probably in the world and that influenced me because in those days, some booksellers were real scholars.”
His adoration for academic literature led him to open The Bookery — and eventually The Bookery II. A newspaper called The Bookpress followed, and stayed in print for 12 years. The newspaper included literary pieces, artwork and poetry by college faculty, graduate students and freelancers.
“The result was a very vibrant part of the community between the new bookstore and the old one, and the literary press,” said Barbara Mink, a local artist as well as Goldman’s wife. “It was an outlet for a lot of writers here in Ithaca and the region.”
The Bookery was unique, Goldman said, because — like many independent bookstores — its owners had their own personal approach and inspirations when choosing inventory for their store. He handpicked each book, taking into account personal taste and what literature the community responded to.
From science to serious art books, The Bookery stocked tomes from academic fields and literary fiction, trying to fill a growing need of the community.
“Running a used bookstore, I never felt like a businessman,” Goldman said. Through the bookstore, he encountered people who wrote, drew and created cartoons — a community of passionate people in Ithaca.
In its prime, the literary nook was a cultural Mecca in Ithaca for those who loved reading, especially finding unique or hard to find books in little-known fields.
“One thing Jack always believed was that it had an important role to play in the community,” Mink said. “We used to have readings and discussions and all kinds of things, especially when we had the two stores and it was a community center.”
Prof. Gregory Londe, English, said that he “hope[s] that folks will come and buy up every last book that is on their shelves. Enjoy it while it’s still here, I say — their poetry section is full of good stuff, and the various nonfiction stacks often have a lot of books by local faculty.”
The Bookery was loved and appreciated by all who visited — it was even named on Buzzfeed’s list of Great American Independent Bookstores in 2014.
Out-of-towners who went to college in Ithaca would often return to browse, Mink said, relieved that The Bookery was still around.
While Goldman is sad to see the bookstore go, he plans to continue his love for literature through reading and writing while enjoying his retirement. Mink expressed her hope that Goldman will write a memoir on his “remarkable life.”
The Bookery’s inventory will be on sale from now until Nov. 18, and the owners are inviting people in to converse with Goldman and “find some books you’ve been meaning to read or give to loved ones.”