Queens Bookshop Initiative gaining momentum
by Jennifer Khedaroo
Apr 26, 2016 | 4168 views | 0 0 comments | 81 81 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Holly Nikodem, Natalie Noboa and Vina Castillo are planning to open a bookshop in Queens later this year.
Holly Nikodem, Natalie Noboa and Vina Castillo are planning to open a bookshop in Queens later this year.
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Soon after learning that the Barnes and Noble on Austin Street would be closing down, three former employees were inspired to open an independent book store for the community.

Five months later, members of The Queens Bookshop Initiative have attended seminars, started a Kickstarter page, and planned community events to make that dream come true.

Holly Nikodem, Natalie Noboa and Vina Castillo are behind the initiative and are planning on opening their bookshop in Queens within the next year.

They’ve placed an emphasis on Forest Hills or Kew Gardens due to the neighborhoods’ character and the availability of public transportation that would link other Queens neighborhoods.

In addition to attending business seminars at Borough Hall, last week they had the opportunity to represent their initiative to other members of the industry at the American Booksellers Association Spring Forum.

“It was really interesting to be there as part of the discussion,” Nikodem said. “The discussion this year was very centered around shopping locally and keeping the idea of independent business strong.”

Together, the women have 10 years of collective bookselling experience, and each held a managerial position at the old Barnes and Noble.

“I think the ages that we’re at, ranging from stable-20s to 30, is very important for an endeavor this size,” Nikodem said. “We’re old enough to know the risks and the work that needs to be put into it, but we’re still young enough to have that drive and energy."

One of the biggest challenges for the store is fundraising. While they are planning to continuously fundraise and contribute themselves, the first step has been a very public one.

Launched this past Sunday and continuing until June 23, the trio hopes to raise $70,000 through Kickstarter to jumpstart the brick-and-mortar store. The funds will partially cover inventory, the point of sale (POS) system and marketing.

Besides books, the shop will sell local crafts such as journals, stationary, t-shirts and other literary-themed items.

Donors can pledge amounts ranging from $10 to $5,000. The rewards for each pledge range from bookmarks and tote bags to getting the opportunity to attend the pre-grand opening party or host an event at the bookshop.

For $300, backers can “sponsor a shelf” by having their names on a plaque on one of the bookshelves in the store. In the first 24 hours, the initiative managed to raise $5,000 and the amount has been growing steadily since.

Local authors are providing signed copies of their novels for some of the rewards. They include Zoraida Cordova, Alex Segura, Megan Abbott, Phillip Klay, Maureen Johnson and Kate Gavino.

“It shows that the lit community in the area is very supportive of the initiative,” Nikodem said.

The bookshop will also be hosting a community event at Russell Sage Playground on Saturday, April 30, in honor of Independent Bookstore Day. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., kids of all ages will be able to participate in Storytime in the Park, do yoga and get creative with arts and crafts.

They’re hoping to have more events scheduled by July.

“Just because we don’t have a space yet doesn’t mean that we aren’t present and we don’t want to participate in the literary community,” Nikodem said. “Having Storytime in the Park is almost a wink and a nod to the fact that we’re not there yet, but we still want to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day. Hopefully by next year, that will be different.”

For more information and to pledge, visit their Kickstarter page.

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