The last independent bookstore in Bronx, New York, Books In The Hood, followed in the footsteps of the much larger Borders conglomerate and closed its doors in December 2011. With the new digital era, real brick and mortar bookstores were becoming obsolete. The reality finally hit home when in 2016, the last bookstore in the borough, Barnes & Noble located in Co-op City, shut its doors as well.
Noëlle Santos was among the thousands of protesters trying to save Barnes & Noble from closure, but to no avail. The retailer was unable to extend its lease, and the Bronx lost its only bookstore. Not one to give up easily, Santos turned her disappointment into determination, and set out to open her own independent bookstore in the Bronx. Thus, The Lit. Bar was born.
OTPS: Please tell us a little about Noëlle Santos.
Noëlle: I have lived in the Bronx my entire life. I am an avid reader, book club organizer, human resources professional, and blogger, among other things. My favorite artist is J. Cole and I love the color orange.
OTPS: What inspired you to start a campaign to open The Lit. Bar, which will be the only bookstore left in Bronx, NY once it opens?
Noëlle: In 2014, I learned our only bookstore was Barnes & Noble, and it was in jeopardy of being displaced. Less than 24 hours after signing a petition that would keep it open for two more years, I decided to embark on my Lit. Bar journey. I was over waiting for corporations to trickle something enriching down to my people and our thriving market.
OTPS: What is The Lit. Bar’s mission?
Noëlle: The Lit. Bar’s mission is to create a haven which inspires reading, healthy social interaction, and forward-thinking in the Bronx. We aim to broaden our community’s knowledge and capacities through our carefully curated book selection and stimulating events, and enthuse with fun, Bronx and reader-related products. We are committed to the quirky needs of our customers, working as a dedicated community partner, and helping to redefine stigmas associated with the borough.
OTPS: How can you ensure that once your doors open, they won’t close anytime soon? What are your credentials?
Noëlle: Before I’m a reader and passionate Bronxite, I am a businesswoman. I have a bachelor’s degree in business administration & accounting, a master’s degree in business administration & human resources management, and I am a certified PHR (Professional in Human Resources) and SHRM-CP (Society for Human Resources-Certified Professional). For over 10 years, I’ve strategically recruited, developed, and managed the most valuable (and expensive) aspects of businesses from the Bronx to Wall Street… their people and their money.
OTPS: Why is it so important for you to have a bookstore in the Bronx?
Noëlle: Personally, I need somewhere to go. I didn’t always dream of being a bookseller, but my peers and I often complained about there being nothing to do at home. We need a place to connect to like-minded people, and enjoy the arts in a way that we usually have to travel outside the borough to enjoy. Most importantly, we need greater access to books, and something dramatic to spread book culture in the Bronx. I hope to serve as a catalyst for other native Bronxites to develop businesses here that are for us and by us.
OTPS: What kind of titles do you anticipate providing? Will it be a diverse selection, or are you looking to cater to a specific demographic?
Noëlle: The Lit. Bar will be a general interest bookshop specializing in women’s and local interests.
OTPS: What services will The Lit. Bar offer?
Noëlle: Some of our services will include a consignment program for local authors, book club matching for all ages, and group travel inspired by literature.
OTPS: When do you anticipate your grand opening? Are you close to bringing your dream to fruition?
Noëlle: TBA 2017. Yes, I’m THIS close. I have surpassed my crowdfunding goal, which puts me in a great position to secure the rest of my funding and a lease.
OTPS: How can our readers learn more about you, your journey, and your dream for The Lit. Bar?
Noëlle: I blogged the whole way through, from conception to crowdfund at 1st Noelle. There’s a great summary of my journey on my crowdfunding site.
OTPS: Please tell our readers how they can contact and/or follow you.
Noëlle: My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Facebook/Twitter/Instagram @thelitbar. My personal Facebook/Twitter handle is @bossynbookish, and on Instagram @1st.noelle.
Ode to The Lit. Bar
Once upon a time a girl from the bronx had big dreams of opening an independent bookstore/wine bar right here at home it would be the only indie bookstore in the entire borough–-home to 1.4 million people and 10 colleges–and it would be called The Lit. Bar.
(Read the full poem, Ode to The Lit. Bar, here.)
On The Plus Side wants you to know it’s not too late to donate to a great cause. Join The Lit. Bar’s crowdfunding initiative, and help Santos serve up Books, Wine, & Bronx-pride… Donate Here!