The New York Times Magazine has done a love-piece on this most excellent bookshop. (Link via Shelf Awareness of Nov. 26th.) Three Lives has been around since 1978, and despite a recent scare, looks set for a cat’s-load of lives.

We are living through a moment of optimism with regard to the independent bookshop. I think we are all (well, most of us who are not rabid free marketers) agreed that some sort of action ought to be taken to protect small businesses from being bid out of real estate existence by the large retail chains. No idea what form this action should be, but we cannot want every vacant store to be snapped up by Zara or The Gap, can we?

A couple of years ago people in our neighborhood managed to persuade the large pharmacy chain which had taken over the lease for our local supermarket, that they should not open up yet another huge pharmacy there — the little one across the street suits us just fine — and leave us without options for food shopping. The Borough President was prominent in the crowd outside the site which probably helped, though as far as I know the decision was motivated by a realization by the pharmacy chain that forcing this change through would have been disastrous PR. But the retail industry in general is under stress these days, and local governments are being forced to pay attention, though I don’t see any signs yet that anyone has come up with a bright idea to prevent all retail workers ending up as delivery agents for Amazon.

I find it harder and harder to accept that real estate should be subject to unregulated private ownership. Surely the land upon which our city is built ought to be a public good. It certainly shouldn’t be reserved exclusively as an ever growing cash-tree for real estate fat-cats. (Yes, yes; there are no doubt a few small and thin cats in the business too. And some who may even be public spirited as the Three Lives landlord does seem to have been.) Well, obviously the United States is never going to go for anything even remotely smacking of public ownership of land, but I hope that we might manage some sort of rent regulation of retail space, giving us the option to encourage retail of a sort that we need, rather than just retail chains with deep pockets.