The store, in the historic Hotel Everett, devotes its up-front shelves to Hudson Valley writers, photographers, historians and personalities. Stacked there are numerous books about and by Helen Hayes, who graced Nyack with her presence for 60 years, surrounded by coffee table books by local fine art photographer Victor Gagliardi and titles by New Yorker columnist Calvin Tomkins.
On any given day, Pickwick’s owner Jack Dunnigan can be heard updating fellow shopkeepers on the latest zoning changes, chamber of commerce events, and Arts, Crafts & Antique Dealers Association (ACADA) festivals. Pickwick participates in numerous book fairs and special events in this active community, including the five annual festivals that bring loads of tourists to town.
Indeed, these festivals turn Main Street and Broadway into pedestrian walkways filled with vendors of arts, crafts, antiques, clothing, accessories, gourmet delights, and, of course, books.
“The last couple of festivals have been absolutely amazing—a big draw for the village,” Dunnigan says.
“Once they see the beauty of Nyack, they’re going to come back. This is like your two-page spread in the New York Times. This is your window to the world. It’s so much work, but it’s so worth it—especially with the economy. You need that shot in the arm.”
Nyack has a special place in Dunnigan’s heart. This Victorian village on the western bank of the Hudson has a rich history filled with stories of flavorful personalities. But its charm and draw extend beyond its borders.
“Nyack is more than just Nyack,” Dunnigan adds. “Nyack is Piermont, Palisades, Sparkill, Grandview, South Nyack, Upper Nyack, West Nyack. Nyack is the focal point because it has the village and it’s a walking village. That’s what draws people. It’s a small town feel. If someone grew up in a small town and moves here, they feel at home,” Dunnigan relates.
“We get people from all parts of the world who visit the Hudson Valley.
“We have a unique village—one square mile on the river. There’s a very old village, a very good school system, and a vibrant arts and antique community. We have a strong chamber of commerce, and ACADA is getting stronger. When the economy comes back, the village is just going to get stronger.”
And one can still find almost anything in Nyack, Dunnigan points out. “I don’t have to go out of town for anything, except bulk items.”
Dunnigan’s passion for Nyack equals his passion for books. A native of Rockland County, Dunnigan used to come here almost weekly as a child to shop with his parents for clothing, shoes, books, and greeting cards, among other items. “I had fond memories of Pickwick as a child.”
In 1975, when he was about 30, he fell into buying Pickwick Books by chance—but it quickly grew on him. Dunnigan added used books to the mix, placing them in the basement. Soon, he found many customers seeking out the used books and bypassing new ones, so he reorganized the store with the new and used volumes intermingled, grouped by subject, and arranged by author. The balance tips more toward new titles around holidays, for gift-giving.
Dunnigan knows every nook of the store and can pinpoint nearly any title a customer requests.
“I know what should be here. It’s like your house—you know what’s inside,” he says.
A customer comes in for a classic and spies a new title with the Newbery winner medal on it: “The Higher Power of Lucky.”
“Ah, this is a good book,” Dunnigan tells her as he rings up her purchases.
Just then, the third neighbor in an hour stops by to tell Dunnigan his cat Miss Agatha had gotten out of the store and was on the corner. “Oh, she’s just getting some sun,” he reassures the passerby. It’s that small-town neighborly feel that gives Nyack its charm.
“You’ve got to support your own,” Dunnigan says of the loyal customers and community members who keep Nyack humming.