Architecture & Real Estate | June 23, 2019 12:06 pm

The Rise of Futuristic Newsstands, Minus Newspapers

The urban retail landscape takes a surreal turn

Around 300 newsstands can be found around New York City
Chris Doelle/Creative Commons

Is a newsstand still a newsstand if you can’t buy a newspaper there? The answer to that question is a firm and definitive “maybe.”

At The New Yorker, Lizzie Widdicombe investigated the growing footprint of New Stand, which began in 2015 with one outpost in the Union Square subway station in New York City. The store, she writes, “was gleaming white, like an Apple product, with a soundtrack of throbbing dance music.” And it represented a break from the past: “Instead of the usual newsstand offerings (the Post, PayDay bars, plastic-wrapped porn), it sold kale chips and instant cameras.”

The Union Square outpost is now gone, but 39 others have appeared, most of them in New York. The paradox, though, is this: for a structure that’s nominally a newsstand, there’s a dearth of actual newspapers and magazines being sold there.

For the most part, New Stand does not sell newspapers. Or magazines, really, beyond a smattering of fashion and tech publications. This wasn’t necessarily what its creators intended. “We launched with all the big papers in the Union Square subway,” Lex Kendall, one of New Stand’s founders, told me last week. “They didn’t sell!”

One of New Stand’s founders drew inspiration from underground shops in Europe — including Paris’s Carrousel du Louvre, an underground shopping area located below the Louvre. (The closest equivalent in New York might be Turnstyle, located at Columbus Circle.)

Ultimately, New Stand has focused more on above-ground locations for a host of reasons; lack of air conditioning on hot days was one very relatable one. But their presence is further evidence of a shift away from the archetypal newsstands of the city past — something that observers of the city’s history have picked up on.

And the city’s underground retail landscape continues to change and evolve, sometimes in unexpected and strange ways. Earlier this month, CVS rolled out a series of vending machines to several subway stations across New York.

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