Alan Hubby, co-owner of The Drama Book Shop, on how Broadway rallied behind #BuyABook and what’s next for the Shop


What is the worst enemy of a bookshop? A flood? A fire? The Drama Book Shop, located in the heart of Times Square on 40th St., has dealt with them all. The shop will be celebrating its centennial anniversary next year but instead of celebrating, they were mourning last month when a pipe burst, damaging over a third of their inventory. Not only was this a huge financial loss for The Drama Book Shop, but also the loss of being able to service their devoted customers was difficult to overcome. The Drama Book Shop provide books on how to write a play, the monologues needed for to auditions, librettos and books about and written by famous theatre professional and productions, but they also host countless events, there are readings, discussions, and signings each week.

To lose The Drama Book Shop would be like losing a family member of the theatre community  which is why, when this historic shop was threatened, the people that it supported for so many years decided that it was time to give back. Playwright Lynn Nottage was there the on March 1, signing copies of her plays in support.

“I immediately thought, you know, what can I do? How can I help? It is so important to our community. And there is literally no one else to go except The Drama Book Shop. One of the things that is so lovely about The Drama Book Shop is that it is a community,” Nottage said on her support of the efforts to help The Drama Book Shop recover from the damage. “People come and sit and commune, it isn’t just what’s on the shelves; it is also about what is happening between the aisles.”

Nottage isn’t the only one who feels this way. The Drama Book Shop received an overwhelming amount of support thanks to the #BuyABook campaign, spearheaded by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Miranda, who wrote a significant amount of In The Heights in the basement of the Drama Book Shop, tweeted out to his 250k followers, and once the word got out, the love came rolling on in! Complete with some pretty big names, (Gabrielle Ruiz and Alex Boniello) to name a few performing at the end of this month for at a Drama Book Shop benefit concert.

Alan Hubby

Alan Hubby

Alan Hubby, co- owner of The Drama Book Shop, sat down with and told us all about the Drama Book Shop’s history over the years and how this time, the Broadway community rose up and gave back to where they started.

So you walk in and your shop is flooded: what do you do?

The first thing we had to do was clean up and take an inventory of all of the damaged books. It’s heartbreaking- we order from 2,000 publishers and are very specialized. We need to have everything-books about acting, about writing, about directing… and when one-third of your inventory is destroyed, it takes a toll. We had to start ordering replacement books that day.

Okay so this happens, and it’s awful, how do you cope?

We’ve been around for 100 years, this isn’t our first disaster. When we were on 7th ave, someone had a party on the roof and they left their garbage up there and it clogged the drain and so the whole roof filled up with water and it came down the staircase and through the back door and all the way through the front door. Fortunately, it was only the books on the floor that were damaged; anything in boxes or on the shelves was fine. And then on 52nd street, there was a restaurant across the shop and the duct wasn’t put in correctly so every few weeks there was a fire in their chimney. So one day the fire department is putting a fire out in the chimney and they look across the street and see that the Drama Book Shop is on fire! We were so lucky- we catch on fire and the fire department was right there! It burned down the offices, but there was no damage to the store at all.

So basically you were due for a disaster again?

Yeah… it had been about 15 years so we were due for a disaster.

What was it like to have the Broadway community rally around and lift you up?
We’ve been here to help our customers, and that’s why we’re still here and still in business.  And now our customers are here to help us! It’s very overwhelming and kind of humbling, and feel a little bit strange about it.

Well, Lin Manuel took over and did the whole #BuyABook campaign and his Ham4Ham video.

He’s amazing, have you met him? He is the nicest guy you’ve ever met. He spent a lot of time here, for like a year and a half he was here almost every day writing In The Heights in the basement.

Did he reach out to you and ask how to help?
When he heard about it a few days later, he came over here and made the video, and because of him and Tommy Kail it just happened that the Dramatist’s Guild was having their annual meeting so Jeanine Tesori, and Lisa Kron, they got involved too. And then the publisher’s started to hear about it and started making donations.

And now you have the 54 Below event, which I will be attending by the way.

That’s great! 54 Below called us and they gave us the space, and they never just give space!

People knew about The Drama Book Shop before, but a lot more people know about it now than ever before.

Yeah…well our poor book buyers are overwhelmed, and our mail order department is also overwhelmed. We can barely keep with the demand, plus there was some bad weather in the Midwest, which is where most of our books come from.

So how close are you to complete restoration? How close are you to your goal?
We will actually break even by May, which will be good. We will get some insurance money in a few months, which helps too.

So a lot of this was just luck. The Dramatist’s Guild was in town as you said, and wanted to help?
Well, Lin Manuel really did a lot of it.

That is amazing! So Lin really did a lot of this? When does that man sleep!?
I really don’t know. But he did. He just has so many followers and he has got such a generous soul. You know, they don’t need to give away those tickets, but he does it because he wants to. He knows people are on a fixed income and can’t spend that kind of money on a ticket.

Obviously now, there is this heavy support for The Drama Book Shop, have you always felt supported this much and now you’re just seeing a financial aspect added as well?
Well, we always knew that people liked us, which was nice. They always say how much they love the shop and we’re still in business, right? People really do step up when it matters, especially when it is one of our nice clerks who worked so hard to help you find the right monologue/play that was what started your career. We’ve done everything possible to make this feel like a place where people feel like they can come and hang out and feel welcome and feel supported here.

How much of Broadway wouldn’t exist without people coming in and buying your books?
Well, I’ll tell ya, it doesn’t always happen like that. People will come in and work with our clerks and get advice and help and really specialized attention…and then they will go home and order off of Amazon. They just don’t get it. Or they will take a photo of the one monologue that they want with their smartphone from the play instead of actually buying it.

Oh wow. I didn’t even realize that! Well, I will continue to get the #BuyABook word out there! Thank you again for you time & I am excited to see the benefit.

Thank you for writing about us, and I will see you there.

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About Nicole N.

"Say yes. Show up afraid, show up prepared, but say yes." - Renee Elise Goldsberry

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