Part of the enjoyment of shopping at the world’s most famous used-book store is the staff; they always seem a bit cleverer than you and not afraid to show it. They are the kids with the groovy glasses from your history class, and almost all of them live in Brooklyn. Here, a lexicon of the Strand look, from the owner to the guy on the loading dock, on a typical Thursday morning.
MADELINE DONAHUE, Art Books
Does the art department have a specific look?
We’re more visible to the public than some other floors, so people take a really active interest in what they look like every day.
Any guidelines from the boss?
Be decent, and don’t flash anyone.
FRED BASS, Owner
What do you look for in an employee?
People who are strong, bright, alert, and who know how to talk to customers, who can answer questions, and who know the alphabet. We give a brief test matching authors to titles: Catch-22 to Heller or Origin of Species to Darwin. Nothing too obscure.
Do you always wear a tie?
I run the store with my daughter, Nancy, and I found out that if I wear a tie, it identifies me as senior management.
JORDAN SMITH, Information Technology
What’s your favorite book?
Probably Trout Fishing in America, by Richard Brautigan. It’s sort of a sixties experimental book. It’s got a good sense of humor but also lots of sadness.
WILL FABRO, Customer Service
How’s the temperament of Strand customers?
For the most part, they’re fine. But there are people who are totally insane.
People who freak out if a book has one tiny thing wrong with it, like a crease in a jacket cover.
Is there a prevailing “Strand look”?
There’s a very big L-train contingent here. By which I mean there are lots of people who make comfort look really, really cool.
JENNY MCKIBBEN, Manager
What do you do as manager?
I build libraries for people. Like, I did a library for Moby. He’s into Futurism art books.
What’s in your library?
Lots of hardcover art books and pulpy paperbacks. It’s all kind of beat up because I actually read my stuff.
CHAIM GARCIA Art Books
Do you like working here?
It’s not corporate, so you feel like you’re working at an independent bookstore even though there’s a giant staff.
Do you dress up for work?
I’ve gone through phases. I was very into the Edwardian era. But it was exhausting. I’m back into jeans and Chucks.
MONICA WANG, Cashier
Do you always wear Strand T-shirts?
I’m very proud of working here! Before the Strand, I had a job where I had to dress up and it was terrible. Now it’s like, “You’re uncomfortable? You have a stain? Put on a Strand shirt!”
CHELSEA MARKS, Receptionist
How do you dress for work?
There’s nobody to impress here, really, so I just am myself.
ANGEL DE GARCIA, Pricer in the Warehouse
What is this look?
I have led a very nomadic existence for some 52 years. I come from an orphanage upstate, by way of an orphanage on Staten Island. I’m inner city, I’m South Bronx, I am from the early hip-hop generation. It’s part of me, and I am a universal spiritual machine.
But you haven’t told me about your look.
All of the things that exist in this city, all of the vibrations have caused in me an external transformation and a kind of look that I don’t even recognize on a conscious level. I am the city. I am a representation of its Mad Max aura.
SETH HOLMES, Warehouse Manager
How’s the warehouse different from the rest of the store?
We’re almost all guys up here, and we don’t see customers. We’re definitely a breed of our own.
So what do you talk about all day?
Sports, unfortunately, but books, too. We definitely avoid politics and religion.