Iconic NYC bookstore finds new home next door

2022-07-15 22:04:31 By : Ms. Celina Tang

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After recently being priced out of its space of 30 years, the Greenwich Village institution Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books has gotten a new lease on life just one door down.

Last month, following a rent hike, the local landmark was forced to say goodbye to the 34 Carmine St. storefront from which it pedaled aptly bargain-priced tomes.

Fate appeared to have dealt the beloved indie shop a common New York City ending — until the restaurant next door offered some salvation. 

“I set up two shelf units — 4 feet, 17 inches — painted them black to match the décor, and filled them with the choicest, the crème de la crème of libros,” Unoppressive’s owner and founder, Jim Drougas, told The Post of his humble new 300-book “summer pop-up” inside 40 Carmine St.’s Temperance, a wine bar. “We’ll be accessible Tuesday to Sunday, except when they have private parties,” he said, adding that he plans, sporadically, to set up two folding tables outside to sell books there, as well.  

When Drougas told Temperance’s owner that “things were going downhill,” he explained, his neighbor kindly offered him a small footprint in his bistro. Temperance has even created a drink in Drougas’ honor: An eponymous, vermouth- and club soda-based cocktail called the Unoppressive, Non-Imperialist Americano. 

“I had the pleasure of being the first customer at [Jim’s] new location tonight,” author Ed Hamilton proudly wrote on Facebook this July 8, adding to The Post that, while he’s not convinced such hybrid relationships are the future, “Whenever a creative solution to the problem of skyrocketing rent can be found for these places, I am all for it.” 

The situation is a temporary experiment, Drougas emphasized, and he remains hopeful a larger space will soon present itself, or that one of the many wealthy celebrities who have sung their adoration for Unoppressive over the years will put their money where their mouth is and help the shop find a forever home. 

Still, he is grateful for the lifeline. 

“It’s really fun that it’s right next door, on the other side of the exact same tree I’ve always been on,” Drougas said. He briefly considered trying to set up similar pop-ups at the other stores on Carmine Street until a British acquaintance noted that it sounded a bit imperialistic. 

Business has been booming at his little wine bar corner, awareness for which has been bolstered by a self-funded short film about his old space called “34 Carmine St.” made over the course of three years by a former residential tenant of the building. (In addition to its commercial front, the five-story building also has more than 10 apartments.) 

“We had a wonderful final screening of the film at the Angelika a few days ago. I felt like a movie star, everyone wanted to have their picture taken,” Drougas said. 

For those concerned about Alex, the “sensation” of a cat who’d been living at the space for more than a year, Drougas would like fans to know that she’s moved uptown and is thriving in her new life at a friend’s Midtown townhouse. 

And as for his former space, “I hear it might become a bagel thing, which is kind of annoying,” Drougas said, although he harbors far more hope than resentment. “Maybe they will name a bagel after Unoppressive, too. Or, maybe they will let me keep a wall of books in there to redeem themselves. That would be a smart move.”