There hasn't been a single general interest bookstore in the Bronx in over two years, following the closure of Barnes and Noble at Bay Plaza Shopping Center. But on Saturday—which happens to be Independent Bookstore Day—The Bronx's sole independent bookstore, The Lit. Bar, will open its doors to the public. Or, as the bookstore's proprietor Noëlle Santos puts it, "Noëlle brings a goddamn bookstore to the Bronx."
A lifelong Bronx resident, Santos has long been dreaming up a way to make an independent bookstore happen for her home borough. "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 back in 2017. "We're not seeing real effective change happening for people who are already here."
In 2016, Santos, who previously worked in human resources and accounting, snagged second place in the New York Public Library's StartUP! competition for forward-thinking business plans, which came with $7,500 in prize money to help bring The Lit. Bar to life. Through an Indiegogo campaign, she raised an additional $170,000-plus to start building the store.
Books on books inside The Lit. Bar (Courtesy of The Lit. Bar)
After an extensive search for the ideal space, Santos found a spot in Mott Haven. While she signed the lease back in October 2017, as she told Teen Vogue earlier this year, she went through "construction hell" last year before finally gearing up for this weekend's opening.
Santos's bookstore has sections specifically highlighting women and people of color's extraordinary work, which has routinely been cast out of the historical literary canon. There's also a wine bar in the back, which Santos hopes will function as a community space where residents can hold meetings and events. "What better way to loosen our tongues and talk about the books we love?" the site asks.
The store will kick off its opening with a ribbon-cutting, tunes, and refreshments all day on Saturday. Over the next couple of days, they'll have the likes of children's book author Ty Allan Jackson giving a "fun and educational talk to little hustlers about finance and entrepreneurship," and Santos herself in conversation with Sara Bliss, of Forbes, about what it was like to make The Lit. Bar a reality.
Now in its fifth year, Independent Bookstore Day is a one-day nationwide celebration honoring the loving spirit of non-corporate bookstores by hosting barbecues, author events, bookstore crawls and more. Check and see if your beloved local bookstore has events going on tomorrow by checking out this handy interactive map.
The Lit. Bar is located at 131 Alexander Avenue, in the Bronx.