Nearly a month after the last general-interest bookstore in the Bronx closed its doors for good, one woman is ramping up efforts to bring the borough its only indie bookstore. For Noëlle Santos – the woman hoping to open The Lit. Bar – December 31, 2016 marked a sad day in the borough’s history. But it made her mission even more pertinent. “I am deeply saddened – their displacement creates a new set of challenges for me, both professionally and personally,” she wrote on her blog. “I appreciate everyone’s social media comments as it seems The Lit. Bar is a shoo-in for our fallen bookshop, but do not rejoice. The Lit. Bar. is set to be a 2,100 to 2,500 square-foot operation 10 miles from Bay Plaza; with over 1.4 million residents and 10 colleges, our borough will remain grossly underserved.”
For a New York City borough with roughly the same population of Phoenix – one of the most populated cities in the United States – the lack of bookstores is a disservice. But Santos saw the writing on the wall in 2014 when the Co-Op City B&N almost closed for the first time. It’s actually what inspired her to open her own bookstore/wine bar. She submitted her idea to New York Public Library’s StartUP! Business Plan Competition back in June 2016, where she placed second and netted $7,500. She also held a pop-up shop at the Bronx Museum of the Arts over the holidays and became the best-selling vendor, according to Curbed.
Though these victories and her own personal investment put her closer to her goal, it’s not enough to allow her to move forward. That’s why Santos launched an IndieGoGo campaign designed to raise a minimum of $100,000 in the next two months. “I need your help to cure our book desert,” she wrote on the campaign’s page. “We will offer general interest multilingual books, dope gift items, events, and programs with a particular focus on local and women’s interests. Our venue will encourage curious readers and welcome local art and community gatherings while connecting the great pastimes of social drinking and introverted reading. What better way to loosen our tongues and talk about the books we love?”
Her ambitious plan includes multiple zones for visitors to lounge, read, and sip wine in – and for the little ones, a designated Kiddie Lit’r. Currently Santos gets her literary fix by traveling outside of the South Bronx to events and lounges. But this borough is hungry for more literature. A Center for an Urban Future study found that between 2002 and 2014, Bronx libraries saw a 225 percent increase in attendance.
Check out Santos’ sales pitch below, and then drop by IndieGoGo to contribute to her campaign.
Update, April 29, 2019 at 9:50 a.m. ET: The Lit. Bar had its grand opening on April 27.