Casa Magazines has seen it all

To hear more audio stories from publications like the New York Times, download Audm for iPhone or Android . One afternoon in July 2017,...


To hear more audio stories from publications like the New York Times, download Audm for iPhone or Android.

One afternoon in July 2017, Malcolm Gladwell stopped by Casa Magazines in the West Village to purchase a copy of The New York Review of Books. He started chatting with store owner Mohammed Ahmed, which led to a longer conversation about printing.

Mr. Ahmed bought the store in 1994. At first, he regularly sold 300 copies of The New York Times every Sunday. Those days were long gone. On a good weekend, he sold 200 copies.

Listening, Happy David, creative consultant and friend of Mr. Ahmed. She wondered, in light of the drop in sales, if the owner had considered setting up an Instagram account to promote his business. In one day she had set up @casamagazinesnyc and posted his first photo: Mr. Gladwell at the counter with Mr. Ahmed.

Since then, the account has helped transform the shop – an old-school refractory in a city overwhelmed by Hashtagable “experiences” – in a destination for people who aspire to analog.

On Saturday and Sunday mornings, area residents gather at the store for their morning paper and a coffee at La Bonbonniere, the cash restaurant down the block. “If I didn’t show up, they would call me and say, ‘Where are you? “Said Alison Benson, a television producer who keeps a set of spare keys at Casa.

Twenty years ago, when she started her career, she said, “I walked into the store and they were like, ‘Oh, this is Alison, she works for TV and film. Alison, you should meet Sheila, she’s a great producer. ‘ They were like the ultimate connectors on all things. (Now Mr. Ahmed and his deputy manager, Syed Khalid Wasim, known as Ali, refer to Ms. Benson.)

Ms. David testified to the familiarity between the managers of the store and its customers. “It’s like a confessional,” she said. “I have seen people tell Muhammad all these secrets. The secrets of the Village!

Luis Lopez, a driver of the M12 bus line, which starts outside the store, often hangs out with Mr. Wasim between loops. “We do skits all the time,” Mr. Lopez said.

“It looks like an adult Sesame Street,” said Nicolas heller, a documentary filmmaker who shares stories about the city on his Instagram account @newyorknico.

William Grand, a DJ who makes Casa’s wares through his Neighborhood Spot company, described Mr. Ahmed using a laser pointer to help shoppers navigate inventory from its perch behind the counter. “They have over 2,000 titles, but he knows exactly where things are,” he said.

Julianne Moore took her kids to walk every week as they grew up. “Ali in particular always gave my kids candy,” the Oscar-winning actress said, adding that managers “always remember you”.

“Plus,” Ms. Moore noted, “as an actor, if you find yourself on the cover of something and you’re a local, they’ll showcase 15 of those magazines. It’s really cute.

When brands began to contact Ms. David to “take over” those same storefronts to promote their products, she was hesitant at first. “I feel like it’s a risk because Casa is an institution,” she said. But partnerships could also be a new source of income, especially during the pandemic. “You’ve got to really be thinking, ‘Does this fit? “” Is this responsible? “

In 2019, Pat McGrath hosted a beauty pop-up inside Casa, calling her her “World’s favorite store”. The following year, Valentino’s American publicists – both long-time clients – asked if Mr. Ahmed would be interested in promoting the label’s first coffee table book, which featured the work of 26 independent magazines.

“I think it really raised the profile,” Ms. David said.

This fall, Searchlight Pictures called on Casa to energize “The French Dispatch,” Wes Anderson’s own ode to print magazines, by distributing issues of the fictional magazine at its center. As soon as the partnership was announced, Ms David said, people around the world started texting her in hopes of getting a copy. Raymond Ang, GQ’s director of editorial operations, arrived too late to pick up a magazine and a fresh baguette. “By the time I got there all the bread was gone,” he said. “And then Mohammed said, ‘Oh, actually, I hid a few from you.'”

Now Ms. David has the luxury of being selective. “November 2021 has been the most requested month of all time,” she said. “We also deliberately wanted a breathing space. I don’t want to be all ‘partnership, partnership, partnership’.

The Instagram account has been a lifeboat not only for Casa but its neighbors; when La Bonbonniere was in danger of closing during the lockdown, Ms David shared a link to the restaurant’s GoFundMe page, which caused donations to double overnight. “She’s such a doer,” Mr. Ang said. “If you put her in a box, she’ll find a way to make that box bigger, push against those walls and create something different, or do it her way.” “

Younger customers have embraced the store, Ms David said, noting that 22-year-old second daughter Ella Emhoff came “from Brooklyn” to shop.

Of course, there are downsides to exposure. The store has recently become a backdrop for photoshoots on social media, despite the laminated sign saying “Please limit browsing.” No photo of the content.

Hannah McDevitt, a 21-year-old Wilhelmina model, walked to the store to purchase the latest issue of Psychology Today, which featured her face on the cover on Saturday. “I really want to be an influencer someday,” she said. “So I kind of take it seriously and try to find different places. “

“We thought it would be a cool place too, a little bit retro almost,” she said of Casa. While the magazines had brought her there, the store, she noted, had another valuable product to offer: a “aesthetic. “



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