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Bringing A Bookstore To The Bronx

31 July 2017

From National Public Radio:

DON GONYEA, HOST:

Nearly a million and a half people live in the Bronx. And since the end of last year, there hasn’t been a single general interest bookstore in the New York City borough to serve them. But a Bronx entrepreneur is working on changing that. From New York, Rick Karr reports.

RICK KARR, BYLINE: Bronx native Noelle Santos decided it was time to open a bookstore in the borough even before Barnes & Noble closed its only retail location there.

NOELLE SANTOS: That Barnes & Noble – while I appreciated their presence, it never, like, really served the core or was accessible to the core of the Bronx. It could take you up to 50 minutes if you live where I live just to get there by public transportation. It was easier just to take an express train to the city. And then you’re taking your dollars out of the Bronx.

KARR: It’s not just money that’s flowing out of the borough, Santos says. Bronx-based writers have to head to Manhattan for readings and other promotional events. Bronx-based readers don’t have a place to connect. And online booksellers, she says, don’t solve either problem.

SANTOS: We need a physical space like a bookstore, whether it be independent or a chain store. It serves this physiological purpose that Amazon cannot reproduce. Amazon is not a bookstore. They are an algorithm, and that’s all.

KARR: It’s also easier for young people to get in the habit of reading if they grow up with access to bookstores, according to Lisa Lucas.

LISA LUCAS: That’s a place of discovery. That’s a place where the magic of books comes alive in a really tangible way.

KARR: Lucas is executive director of the National Book Foundation.

LUCAS: And I think the more places and spaces that we have that communicate the value of the book, the more that people will want to take a book home or think, oh, this is something I should do.

KARR: Creating a space like that isn’t easy. And Noelle Santos knows it, not least because she has no experience as a retailer. She works in a corporate HR department. Her only experience with booksellers is as a customer.

SANTOS: The industry has been pretty volatile over my entire lifetime, 30 years. And I was, like, OK. What can I do to put a spin on this traditional bookstore model to be a more sustainable business?

KARR: Santos decided that what she could do was combine a bookstore with another business she figures is pretty much recession-proof, a wine bar. She calls it The Lit Bar.

Link to the rest at National Public Radio

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2 Comments to “Bringing A Bookstore To The Bronx”

  1. Didn’t they at one time have one or more of those ‘bookstore’ thingies in the Bronx?

    But the people voted with their money and shopped not there.

    So the title should be: “Would anyone give a hoot if they tried to bring a bookstore back to the Bronx? Would anyone care or even notice?”

  2. She’s been trying to raise money for a year now, and has even done some pop-up bookselling at community events. She still has a long way to go from where she is to the $200K+ she says she needs.

    Thing is, bookstore + wine bar really means wine bar with books around the edges, much as many bookstore + cafe and bookstore + restaurant combos wind up getting most of their business from the food. Look at “bookstore in the grove” in FL, or “Word” in NJ, or any of B&N’s new concept stores. When they are written up or reviewed or yelped all that is mentioned is the food. Nobody cares about the books.

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