Heights History: 48 Hicks Street

0815061839.jpgThe storefront at 48 Hicks Street is now vacant but it was once a used antiquarian bookstore owned by one of New York City’s legendary booksellers.  Jack Biblo, who along with partner Jack Tannen owned and operated Biblo and Tannen’s one of Manhattan’s largest bookstores, spent his final years running a much smaller bookstore — open only on weekends — at the Hicks Street location.

jack bibloAfter a cross-country hitch-hike, Biblo opened his Manhattan store in 1928 with $300 borrowed from his mother. He convinced Tannen, a tie salesman/aspiring actor/his best customer, to be his partner. During the Great Depression the pair hit tough times and made ends meet by selling “erotica” from under the counter.

As for what book business was like in the early days of Manhattan’s Book Row, Biblo told the New York Times, ”We were all a little peculiar. When I started, you had an old Russian revolutionary down the street who kept a wood-burning stove in the middle of his store. If he liked you, he gave you a cup of tea. If he didn’t like you, he threw you out. If he told you a price and you said you’d think about it, he’d double the price.”

tarzanBiblo and his partner are also remembered for their publishing house Canaveral Press. Among other books, it republished hard bound editions of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan series and other works by the author that had fallen into the public domain.

He and his partner closed their Manhattan store in 1979 due to rising costs, dwindling profits and Mr. Tannen’s allergies (Tannen died in 1991).

Biblo died in 1998 at the age of 91. According to his obituary in the New York Times, Biblo never realized his dreams of traveling to Africa to “look for Tarzan” or reading every book in the public library.

Jack’s wife Frances ran the Hicks Street store until her death in 2004.

If you knew Mr. Biblo or visited the Hicks Street store, we’d like to hear from you. Comment below or email us webmaster@brooklynheightsblog.com

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  • Jacob R Clark

    I loved Biblo’s. What a wonderful place. This former Brooklyner is sad to hear it’s gone (actually, a friend told me she thought it was gone but now I know for sure). It was a great place to browse, and Frances was a sweetheart. Always willing to make a deal. Brooklyn is a sadder place without it. Wonder what will take its place? Some hipster boite, no doubt. I’m glad I live in Columbus where there are at least five independently owned used bookstores within walking distance of my apartments. Such places no longer exists (except for the Strand) in today’s New York of outrageous rents and material greed. Too bad.

  • sally berger

    Jack Biblo was my uncle, my father’s brother. I still have a set of Atlas’ he gave me when I was a child about 1950. I visited the Brooklyn location right before he passed away, with a friend I introduced who was a music teacher and without hesitation he said “Oh a man of note.”