All the shelves are now empty.
Most people who have visited Reykjavík are undoubtedly familiar with the Mál og Menning bookstore in Laugavegur 18. On Friday it was announced that the bookstore was permanently closed.
“The day Laugavegur became a pedestrian street, our sales fell,” says Arndís Björg Sigurgeirsdóttir, co-owner of the store.
The Mál og Menning bookstore has been in operation for 59 years. Seven years ago Arndís and his wife Bára Kristinsdóttir took over the company. They temporarily closed the store on May 28 and intended to reopen in November, but plans have changed – both due to the COVID-19 pandemic and because this part of Laugavegur has become a pedestrian zone.
“Things went very well until 2017,” says Arndís, but that’s when the street closures and projects started to affect the business. Project after project, the streets were closed temporarily: “Hverfisgata was closed, half of Lækjargata, Snorrabraut was closed, in addition to the side streets,” she says.
Sales have declined by up to 30 percent over the past three years. “We traders in Laugavegur were expecting us to finally recover, and that’s when COVID-19 arrived, which no one could control. ”
Still, Arndís stresses that the pandemic is not the main reason for the closure: “The reason Mál og Menning did not survive this summer is the street closures,” she said.
There are plans to open a bar where the bookstore was located. It will have the same name as the bookstore. “It’s sad,” Arndís laments, “because such a bar could just as easily be located elsewhere than here precisely. ”
The bookstore is one of the buildings featured in the “Deserted Buildings on Laugavegur” video.