The Argosy Bookstore is an independent, family-owned bookstore that has managed to remain in the heart of Manhattan’s most expensive real estate in an era of online retail and reading. With a selection of books ranging from $1 in value to nearly priceless, the store has been in business for 91 years.
The bookstore was founded in 1925 by Louis Cohen, who ran the family business with his three daughters -- Judith, Naomi, and Adina -- and his wife Ruth.
Argosy Bookstore, 1925
Louis Cohen opened the original Argosy Bookstore in 1925, pictured here, on Lafayette street in downtown Manhattan.
He operated the business from that location until 1930, when he rented a small space on 59th street in Midtown.
Louis Cohen, pictured here, grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan reading to his blind father. He and his wife Ruth passed on their love of books to their three girls.
Argosy Bookstore, 1930
In 1930, the bookstore moved to this 59th street location. Years later, in 1953, Louis Cohen decided to purchase the six-story building next door. The family eventually moved their large collection to that building in 1964--and haven’t moved since.
The tall white building is where the Argosy Bookstore is located today on 59th street between Park and Lexington Avenues. Since 1964, the bookstore has taken up all six stories of the building.
Adina, Judith, Louis, and Naomi
Judith, Naomi, and Adina took over the bookstore when their father died in 1991.
The three sisters, now in their 70’s, have turned down multi-million dollar offers from real-estate developers for the prime location.
Judith, Ruth, Naomi, and Adina
A lot of people, especially real estate brokers, come to shop wondering why the sisters are still there. But it’s not the real estate that has the most value to them -- it’s the collection that it houses.
“We are here because we own the building. Otherwise, we would have gone out of business long ago,” Judith said.
Here, the sisters are pictured with their mother (C), Ruth, who also worked at the bookstore until she passed away.
Judith, Adina, and Naomi
Judith Lowry, left, is in charge of the bookstore’s first editions--which can sometimes be worth thousands of dollars. Adina Cohen, center, oversees the map and art gallery. And Naomi Hample, right, runs the autographs department.
“If there’s any major decision, the three of us have to agree,” Judith told CBS News.
Argosy Bookstore, 2016
The store isn’t as bustling as it used to be, but the internet brings in online orders from around the world. Adina tells CBS News they get offers about 100 times a year.
Argosy Bookstore, 2016
Despite the relatively low foot traffic, the sisters already have a plan for their succession. Judith’s son Ben Lowry will take over the bookstore, and make sure it doesn’t budge.