Casa Magazines Has Seen It All


One afternoon in July 2017, Malcolm Gladwell stopped at Casa Magazines within the West Village to buy a replica of The New York Review of Books. He began chatting with the shop’s proprietor, Mohammed Ahmed, which led to an extended dialog about print.

Mr. Ahmed purchased the shop in 1994. In the early aughts, he routinely bought 300 copies of The New York Times every Sunday. Those days had been lengthy gone. On weekend, he was promoting 200 copies.

Listening in was Happy David, a artistic guide and good friend of Mr. Ahmed’s. She questioned, in gentle of the dwindling gross sales, if the proprietor had thought of beginning an Instagram account to advertise his enterprise. Within a day, she’d arrange @casamagazinesnyc and posted its first picture: Mr. Gladwell on the counter with Mr. Ahmed.

Since then, the account has helped flip the store — an old-school holdout in a metropolis overtaken by hashtagable “experiences” — right into a vacation spot for individuals who lengthy for the analog.

On Saturday and Sunday mornings, close by residents collect on the retailer for his or her morning paper and a espresso from La Bonbonniere, the cash-only diner down the block. “If I didn’t show up, they would call me and be like, ‘Where are you?’” stated Alison Benson, a tv producer who retains a spare set of keys at Casa.

Twenty years in the past, when she was beginning her profession, she stated, “I would go into the shop, and they would be like, ‘Oh, this is Alison, she’s working in TV and film. Alison, you should meet Sheila, she’s a big producer.’ They were like the ultimate connectors on all things.” (Now, Mr. Ahmed and his assistant supervisor, Syed Khalid Wasim, often known as Ali, refer 20-somethings to Ms. Benson.)

Ms. David attested to the familiarity between the store’s managers and its patrons. “It’s like a confessional box,” she stated. “I’ve seen people tell Mohammed all these secrets. The secrets of the Village!”

Luis Lopez, a driver on the M12 bus route, which begins exterior the shop, usually friends round with Mr. Wasim between loops. “We do skits all the time,” Mr. Lopez stated.

“It feels like a grown-up Sesame Street,” stated Nicolas Heller, a documentarian who shares tales in regards to the metropolis on his Instagram account @newyorknico.

William Grand, a D.J. who manufactures Casa’s merchandise by way of his firm Neighborhood Spot, described Mr. Ahmed utilizing a laser pointer to assist consumers navigate the stock from his perch behind the counter. “They have over 2,000 titles, but he knows exactly where stuff is,” he stated.

Julianne Moore would convey her kids to browse each week whereas they had been rising up. “Ali in particular was always giving my kids candy,” the Oscar-winning actress stated, including that the managers “always remember you.”

“Also,” Ms. Moore famous, “as an actor, if you end up on the cover of something and you’re a local, they’ll put 15 of those magazines in the window. It’s really sweet.”

When manufacturers began reaching out to Ms. David to “take over” those self same show home windows to advertise their merchandise, she initially hesitated. “I feel like it’s a risk because Casa is an institution,” she stated. But partnerships is also a brand new income, particularly throughout the pandemic. “You have to really think, ‘Does this align?’ ‘Is it responsible?’”

In 2019, Pat McGrath hosted a magnificence pop-up inside Casa, calling it her “favorite store in the world.” The following yr, Valentino’s American publicists — each longtime prospects — requested if Mr. Ahmed can be excited about selling the label’s first espresso desk e-book, which featured the work of 26 impartial magazines.

“I think that really raised the profile,” Ms. David stated.

This fall, Searchlight Pictures enlisted Casa to spice up “The French Dispatch,” Wes Anderson’s personal ode to print magazines, by distributing problems with the fictional journal at its heart. As quickly because the partnership was introduced, Ms. David stated, individuals everywhere in the world began messaging her in hopes of acquiring a replica. Raymond Ang, the editorial operations supervisor of GQ, arrived too late to gather {a magazine} and contemporary baguette. “By the time I got there, all the bread was gone,” he stated. “And then Mohammed was like, ‘Oh, I actually hid some for you.’”

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

The Instagram account has been a lifeboat not just for Casa however its neighbors; when La Bonbonniere was susceptible to closing throughout lockdown, Ms. David shared a hyperlink to the diner’s GoFundMe web page, inflicting donations to double in a single day. “She’s such a doer,” Mr. Ang stated. “If you put her in a box, she’ll find a way to expand that box, push against those walls and make something different, or do it in her own way.”

Younger patrons have embraced the shop, Ms. David stated, noting that Ella Emhoff, the 22-year-old second daughter, has been coming “all the way from Brooklyn” to buy.

Of course, there are downsides to the publicity. The retailer has of late change into a backdrop for social media picture shoots, regardless of the laminated signal studying “Please limit browsing. No photos of the content.”

On Saturday, Hannah McDevitt, a 21-year-old Wilhelmina mannequin, visited the shop to select up the newest concern of Psychology Today, which featured her face on the quilt. “I definitely want to be an influencer one day,” she stated. “So I kind of take it seriously and try to find different locations.”

“We thought this would also be a cool place, kind of retro almost,” she stated of Casa. While the magazines had introduced her there, the shop, she famous, had one other precious commodity to supply: an “aesthetic.”