Sixth Avenue Losing a Shop For the Magazine Connoisseur

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The New York Sun

Say goodbye to the Alaska Quarterly Review in the West Village: Nikos Magazine & Smoke Shop, known for its wide selection of arts and science magazines as well as highbrow journals, is closing after 31 years.

The store, situated at the corner of 11th Street and Sixth Avenue, is closing due to high rent, the eponymous owner, who declined to give his last name, said. The store was a magnet for New School professors and Village scribes alike.

Nikos no longer sells tobacco, but its aroma wafted through the alley-like store as the owner smoked a pipe, wearing a blue-buttoned shirt, and stood solemn and sentry-like at the cashier’s area on a raised platform to the left of the door. The shop had no sign, just a brick column and large windows displaying a mix of magazines, some well known, others with small readerships — such as lacanian ink and Pleiades. Two display stands of the New York Review of Books greeted visitors near the corner door.

In the store, among walls that have been mostly emptied, was a Danish anthropologist who specializes in Tibetan Buddhism, David Larsenborg. “I’m devastated,” the scholar, who said he visits the store whenever he comes to New York, said. An actor, Steven Marcus, said that meaningful staples of Village life were being diminished.

Yesterday the store offered everything priced at either $1 or 25 cents. A former editor at Ebony magazine, Alfred Fornay, said he would miss finding the “out-of-the-way magazines” the store sold. Every foot used to be accounted for: Even its rafters were chockablock with journals and magazines such as McSweeney’s and Harper’s.

An abundance of literary magazines that ran alphabetically along the left wall were now few in number: Daedalus abutted Dislocate, a journal edited at the University of Minnesota, and Gargoyle lay next to the Georgia Review. An alcove in the back of political magazines ran the gamut from the Modern Age, published by the conservative Intercollegiate Studies Institute, to New Politics: A Journal of Socialist Thought.

Nikos said the new owner will sell water, soda, Lotto tickets, and other things in addition to magazines, which will help pay the rent. Few stores gave journals as long a shelf life as Nikos. Indeed, still left was a stack of Projections: A Publication of the Forum for the Psychoanalytic Study of Film. The issue date? Spring 1999. In an outside window was a poster of Raphael’s famous Renaissance painting “School of Athens,” with Plato and Aristotle at the center strolling. A poet and frequent customer, McKenzie Pierson, told The New York Sun: “Greek philosophy leaves Sixth Avenue at last.”

The New York Sun

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