New York independent magazine store, Casa Magazine

As a writer at a digital media company, I’m the first to admit that 99.9% of the content I consume is online. It’s not that I prefer it. In fact, I’d say I’d much rather flip through the glossy pages of a magazine or smell the words that come out of freshly printed paper than squint at a small screen. But while printing may be my preferred method of consumption, more often than not, I choose convenience over principle

When I first arrived in Manhattan, fresh out of college and still disappointed in an innocent and almost cute way, I wanted nothing more than to work for a big magazine. I have multiple copies of Rowing stacked up than I’d like to admit, and my dorm room doubled as a bodega overrun with stale problems of fashion and art catalogs. There was nothing sexier to me than the idea of ​​joining Hearst Tower or Condé Nast, and while I’m dating with this next clause, the idea of ​​working in a digital media company hadn’t yet settled into. mental list I had of possible jobs in the industry. Fast forward six years, and the sentence the press is dead it’s used so frequently that I’ve even seen it on t-shirts and canvas bags and advertised around town.

Three apartments and over half a decade later, my faith not only in the printing industry, but also in the city probably known for giving it life, has been restored. Conveniently tucked away around the corner from my new apartment is Casa Magazines, a corner store that’s just that: a magazine mecca. Piles of publications ranging from Time to Interview they pile up and the overwhelming number of options are almost enough to incite panic. Run by the definition of a real character named Ali for over twenty-two years, the store carries over 2,500 titles ranging from fashion to art and niche interests. Do you own the shop? “No, but I direct the show.”

I ask Ali if he has any regulars, and he stares at me and says “everyone but you”. His regulars (and close friends, to boot) include Julianne Moore, Liv Tyler, and Sarah Jessica Parker, and nearly every customer who walks into the store greets him by name. Ironically, much of the store’s success is due precisely to the digitization of content that makes stores like his struggle in the first place. Their Instagram account went viral, amassing nearly 40,000 followers to date. The account regularly posts new and exciting headlines to enter the store, as well as photos of Ali posing with his favorite items and customers (including the late André Leon Talle). The store has been open for nearly eighty-five years and closed for just one day during COVID. Ali claims he even slept on piles of magazines five or six times, when the weather made it too difficult for him to get to and from his house and still open on time the next day.

Standing in the shop, it’s hard to believe in a world without a print. Each title releases a unique energy, with faces from Hadid to Barack Obama staring at me from the covers. I ask Ali which cover star brings more success and he says Madonna without missing a beat. Your favorite publication? Playboy, of course, but it’s out of print now. And what does it do with everything it doesn’t sell? “In the news, nothing to lose. If I don’t sell it, they give me three months to send it back, at no cost ”.

Ali tells me he’s also started taking smaller publications on consignment, bringing 10 copies and returning them if they don’t sell. You have helped many smaller publications to make themselves known in a world frequented by high profile clients and celebrities. Just as she is explaining this process to me, another regular walks in the door. Ali asks him to tell me what he does. “I work for a well known musician like you probably know. “I ask who, and he evaluates me, trying to figure out whether or not I’m educated enough to be worthy of the answer.” Bob Dylan. “

After the man has paid, Ali is silent for a minute as he plays music, and Willie Nelson starts ringing from behind the counter. I ask him if being downtown, especially in the midst of a pandemic, has caused accidents for the store. “Quite the opposite,” he says. The West Village development has unexpectedly increased store sales, bringing customers willing to spend the extra dollar on content they might otherwise have found online. Willie Nelson abruptly interrupts to make way for Drake’s Hotline Bling, appropriately ringing him. A call from his brother in Pakistan, which he responds quickly before resuming the interview until he receives a second call moments later. A woman on the other line asks if they are carrying GQ Mexico, to which he replies no. She stops. “If you give me a plane ticket, I’ll go buy it,” she says.

As Ali continues to answer my questions, I realize that nearly 70% of our interview was life advice, and much needed life advice to top it off. “Whenever you are bored, stressed, any problem you want to share with me, your boyfriend leaves you, you can take my shoulder to cry on. I have so many clients like that. I try to say listen, no matter what the problem is. I realize that while this tiny store holds 2,500 titles, nearly all of which are brilliant publications, Ali may be the most insightful asset in the room. We conclude the interview, but not before I ask for some selfies, which I am dangerously close to having framed. I left the shop with a big smile on my face, three new publications in hand, countless life lessons, and most of all, a friend. Yes, friends, the press is still very much alive.

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