Over the past decade, Ron Cozzi has seen plenty of change in his neighborhood. Cozzi's Old Edition Book Shop at 74 E. Huron Street opened in 2003 and since then the blocks surrounding the store have gone from forlorn to spiffed up. Former County Executive Dennis Gorski's dreams for a new convention center that would have straddled Ellicott Street and removed two or more blocks of buildings were torpedoed by newly-elected County Executive Joel Giambra in 2000. In ensuing years, buildings on Huron, Broadway, Washington, Genesee, Ellicott and Oak have been picked up by developers and renovated into offices, retail space and hundreds of loft apartments.
While the neighborhood changed for the better, the book selling business has changed for the worse. Cozzi, who has been selling used and rare books, artwork, magazines, postcards and other memorabilia for four decades, is now looking for a change as well.
"It's sad, people are getting away from books," says Cozzi. "Today, everyone is on Kindle. Independent booksellers have been crushed by the big box national chains. There are not enough people coming into the store to warrant a big retail space anymore."
In response, Cozzi is looking to consolidate the bookstore space in the building and take advantage of the improved neighborhood around him. To begin with, Cozzi is seeking a tenant to lease the 2,800 sq.ft. of space where the café is now located. He has retained Joseph Farrauto of Hunt Commercial Real Estate to help find a tenant.
Cozzi is also open to leasing out additional portions of the building if tenants can be found. He sells online and at regional and national trade shows, something he says he will continue doing. He currently has "hundreds of thousands of books."
"I need an exit strategy," says Cozzi. "My wife is pressuring me to plan for retirement and I'm planning for semi-retirement. I plan on staying in the book selling business but without an open shop."
"I can consolidate my books into the upper floors and stay open by appointment," he says. "My plans are fairly flexible. If someone wants 2,800, 5,000 or 10,000 sq.ft. of retail or office space, I can accommodate them."
Cozzi is also open to selling the building if the right offer came along.
"Everything is on the table. The building could work for a lot of things," he says. "A few years ago a developer prepared plans for 26 residential units in the building but didn't pursue it."
The four-story building has four, 5,000 sq.ft. floors plus a basement. It was built in 1897 and originally contained a police station on the ground floor and a rooming house on the upper levels. In 1913 it was purchased and occupied by a carpet retailer and in the 1920s and early-30s was occupied by an electronics company.
The building was purchased in 1933 by the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Cozzi purchased it and an adjacent two-story building in 1995. The two-story building has loading docks and parking on the ground floor and 6,000 sq.ft. of offices on the second level.
Cozzi spent $600,000 to purchase and remodel the buildings to warehouse his book collection. In 2003, he moved Old Editions from University Heights to the four-story building that fronts both E. Huron and Oak streets.
"I love the buildings," he says. "After all the good St. Vincent de Paul did here, they have good vibes. It's been a long, wonderful run, but it's time to downsize."
Get Connected: Old Editions, 716.842.1734
Joseph Farrauto, Hunt Commercial, 716.880.1904