Lin-Manuel Miranda and three of his Hamilton collaborators have purchased New York City's beloved Drama Book Shop, which had celebrated its 100th birthday last year but announced in the fall it would close this month because of a large rent increase. The New York Times reported that the new owners are Miranda, a longtime supporter of the bookshop; Thomas Kail, director of Hamilton; Jeffrey Seller, lead producer; and James L. Nederlander, president of the Nederlander Organization, which operates the theater in which the show's Broadway production is running.
They bought the store from Rozanne Seelen, whose husband, the late Arthur Seelen, had acquired it in 1958. She "sold it for the cost of the remaining inventory, some rent support in the store's final weeks, and a pledge to retain her as a consultant," the Times wrote.
|Future bookseller Lin-Manuel Miranda|
"It's the chronic problem--the rents were just too high, and I'm 84 years old--I just didn't have the drive to find a new space and make another move," she said. "Lin-Manuel and Tommy are my white knights."
The rescue plan is a joint venture between the Hamilton team and the city, which has pledged to find the store an affordable space in Midtown. Julie Menin, the mayor's media and entertainment commissioner, said, "The store is a gem and a cultural institution in New York, and we want to make sure it's saved."
The Drama Book Shop will close its West 40th St. location on January 20, and reopen at a new, as yet unnamed, location in the fall.
"When I was in high school I would go to the old location and sit on the floor and read plays--I didn't have the money to buy them," Miranda said. "After college Tommy Kail and I met in the Drama Book Shop basement, and I wrote a good deal of In the Heights there.... They're like family to us, and when we heard that the rent increase was finally too precipitous to withstand, we began hatching a plan."
Kail, whose post-college theater venture, Back House Productions, was a resident company at the store, commented: "I was in many senses professionally born in that bookshop's basement--I spent the first five years of my career there."
Seller's office, which is already running a Hamilton merchandise store in Manhattan, "will oversee the day-to-day management," the Times noted, adding that he said the bookshop will have a revamped website and expanded programming, with a goal of breaking even, which in recent years the store has done occasionally but not consistently.
Miranda already had a track record for being there when the shop needed him. In 2016, a pipe burst on the third floor of the building that houses the Drama Book Shop, causing severe damage. Customers rallied to support the store and Miranda, using the hashtag #BuyABook, tweeted about the situation and encouraged his followers to purchase books, which they did. He later appeared for a book signing at the store when Hamilton: The Revolution was published.
After the news broke yesterday, Miranda tweeted: "The best part of this morning has been all your @dramabookshop stories. We love this place so much. Keep 'em coming."