On Saturday April 27, National Bookstore Day, the first independent bookstore in the Bronx–and currently the borough’s only bookstore–held its grand opening bash. As Curbed reports, The Lit. Bar bookshop/wine bar at 131 Alexander Avenue in the Mott Haven neighborhood is a long-anticipated labor of love brought to life by Bronx native Noëlle Santos, who first saw a need when the borough’s last bookstore, a Barnes & Noble, threatened to close. The Barnes & Noble closed in 2016 despite community efforts, but a dream was born.
Santos, a former HR and accounting professional, was inspired to bring literary life back to the Bronx when she was asked to sign a petition to keep the aforementioned chain bookstore from closing down due to a rent increase. After enrolling in a course on bookstore ownership and learning the ropes by working at indie bookstores across the city, she whipped up a business plan, entered it in Citi Foundation’s statewide business plan competition–and won. The prize money from the competition helped fund her dream, but, as with any dream of New York City success, it wasn’t an easy path.
The Lit. Bar began life as a pop-up shop at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, where it began attracting media attention. In 2017 Santos launched a crowdfunding campaign called Let’s Bring a Goddamn Bookstore to the Bronx, which raised over $170,000. In October of 2017 after an exhausting search for an affordable location, she signed a lease on the The Lit. Bar’s permanent home.
Construction started in March with its own well-known challenges. With liquor licensing secured, the much-anticipated shop became a reality last week, beginning the first chapter of the indie bookstore that’s doing what the chain store could not: “To create a haven that inspires reading, encourages healthy social interaction, highlights diverse voices, and increases intellectual visibility in the Bronx,” as the store’s mission statement reads.
Santos said in an interview with Teen Vogue magazine that it was important for her to create a multifunctional space where members of the community could hold a wide range of meetings and events. The “Bookstore & Chill” literary space already has a full calendar of events planned including DJ-hosted gatherings, talks, readings and more, with plenty of books, toys and events for kids. The store hopes to stay close to the following goals:
- Purchase books recommended by our family of “BXsellers” (booksellers);
- become exposed to the works of local underground authors & artists;
- read, work, and network with peers & neighbors;
- consume intellectual entertainment (including author events, wine tastings, poetry slams, children’s storytime, and more); and
- learn about existing and upcoming opportunities in the borough.
and to offer a carefully curated selection of general books, gift items, programming, and create original media content that emphasizes local interest and diversity for all ages.
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Photos courtesy of The Lit Bar.