December 3, 2012

Plans for an indie bookstore in Queens


Lexi Beach plans to open the Astoria Bookshop next year.

As those of us at Melville House can attest, there’s a nice variety of independent bookstores here in Brooklyn, including (but by no means limited to) Book Court, WORD, Greenlight, and Community Bookstore. But our neighbors in Queens don’t have quite such an abundance, especially since Astoria’s only indie, Seaburn Bookstore, shut its doors last year.

To remedy that, DNAinfo reports, Lexi Beach and Connie Rourke are planning to launch a new destination for bibliophiles in the spring. Beach, a one-time Simon & Schuster employee, is a big advocate for the positive impact an independent bookstore can have on a community, though she understands the challenges that these small businesses can face:

An independent bookstore will have a hard time competing with the Internet in terms of prices and in terms of selection. But customers also want personal attention, they want someone to tell them: “Here is a great book that I have read and I can tell you if you will like it or not … I have some very good examples to follow in Brooklyn. There are a couple of new bookstores there that are doing spectacularly well.

She says that she plans to host author talks and story time for children — two experiences that online shopping obviously can’t provide. Jenn Northington, the events director of WORD in Greenpoint, told DNAinfo that the key to success for an independent bookstore is to pinpoint what the community needs: “For us, that means a lot of paperback literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, fun events, book groups, good children’s books.”

Astoria residents are excited about the prospect of getting a new store in the area, since their only options right now are to head to Manhattan, or to a Barnes & Noble in Forest Hills. They miss having a place like Seaburn; local book lover Evie Hantzopoulos says, “It was a nice community-oriented spot where you could feel comfortable and browse books.”

Beach and Rourke, who say they were inspired to action by a post on Twitter, have been organizing events to promote awareness of their endeavor in the neighborhood — they held one at the SITE boutique, and another at the Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden.

Meanwhile, Beach and Rourke are continuing to look for a space that’s affordable yet large enough to host events, so they can create a destination for people to engage with books and each other. Beach hopes to build a store where “people can come there and flirt with each other and meet someone to go on a date with, or they can bring their kid for a story hour while they poke around in the stacks a little. We want to offer that kind of space to the community.”




Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.