The Barnes & Noble at the Mall at Bay Plaza shuttered last month, leaving the Bronx without a single general interest bookstore. But Bronx native Noelle Santos is looking to change that—she's been aiming to open an independent bookstore-slash-wine-bar in the South Bronx for some time now, and she's just launched an Indiegogo campaign to help get her dream off the ground.
Back in September, Santos, 30, won a $7,500 prize at the NYPL's 2016 StartUP! business plan competition, coming in second place for her planned bookstore, dubbed The Lit. Bar. She told Gothamist she's now in the process of trying to secure a space for it, but she needs to raise at least $100,000 to get started—enter the Indiegogo campaign.
Santos told us she launched the campaign, which had raised $10K as of Wednesday afternoon, not just because she needs the cash, but because she wants the Bronx community to have a hand in the project. "This is so much more than 'Noelle Santos and her bookish dreams.' I wanted to get the community involved and excited," Santos said, noting that everyone who donates gets a fun bookstore-themed perk like signed books, tote bags, and VIP memberships. "I want everyone in the Bronx to feel like they got a piece of The Lit. Bar."
Santos, who was born and raised in Soundview and now lives in Crotona Park, says it's all the more imperative to bring a bookstore to the Bronx as gentrification proceeds. "Nobody wants to invest in us. When they do, it's not really for us, it's for a more affluent population that comes from outside the borough," she told Gothamist. "We're not seeing real effective change happening for people who are already here." She hopes the bookstore will be a place where longtime locals and newcomers "can meet and become real neighbors and bond."
As for when Bronx residents can expect The Lit. Bar to open, Santos says shopping for property has been a challenge. Still, over the last few months Santos has scored a loyal following. "Ever since I've been making all this noise, people are listening and getting onboard," she said. "I'll be able to overcome challenges because I have so many people behind me, making all this noise behind me." Most of all, Santos says the bookstore will showcase the power of community action in the Bronx. "We have intellectuals here. We're not burning. The '70s are over," she said. "We don't have to wait for any corporation or politician to come save us."
You can donate the the Indiegogo campaign here.