Vina Castillo, Natalie Noboa and Holly Nikodem are behind The Queens Bookshop, a new community effort to bring a bookstore back to this section of Queens. The trio have all worked at Barnes & Noble, and decided to pursue a lifelong dream of opening their own bookstore after meeting up at the Forest Hills location on its last day.
“Once everything started closing, we just saw this as a really good opportunity,” Noboa said.
The trio is currently in the initial stages of opening the bookstore. They’re looking at a variety of resources for funding, including looking into campaigns with GoFundMe or Kickstarter and traditional resources like banks.
For now, they’ve received a lot of positive reaction over social media, with their information being shared countless of times on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Starting in front of the shuttered Barnes & Noble, Noboa and Castillo took to the streets of Forest Hills on Sunday to spread word to residents and shoppers. Many people thanked them, acknowledging that the neighborhood needed a bookstore.
Last year, a petition created to prevent the closing of Barnes & Noble garnered nearly 6,300 signatures, but the effort wasn’t enough. Due to rent issues, the Barnes & Nobles will be replaced by a Target later in the year.
Local residents Tatiana and Alexander Gallego stood in front of Barnes & Noble on Sunday, shocked that the bookstore closed as quickly as it did. They planned to stop by to pick up some Regents prep books, as well as a Star Wars book.
“It kind of killed me when I came here and realized I couldn’t get the books that I wanted,” Tatiana said.
Like many in the area, she prefers to have physical copies of books rather than the Kindle versions, which she doesn’t find fulfilling. And although there’s the option of the library, the teen prefers to buy books because borrowing and having to give it back whether you’ve finished reading or not “can be a pain.”
Alexander will miss the experience of visiting a bookstore, adding “everything is online, but it’s still good to go to stores to look at a book and that was taken away from us.”
There were a few signs in front of Barnes & Noble stating that customers can go to the Manhasset location at 1542 Northern Boulevard, but at least one disappointed shopper said there was no way her and her family would go all the way to Manhasset to buy books.
Ideally, The Queens Bookshop wants to open in Forest Hills due to its central location in the borough, but they are not counting out other Queens neighborhood.
According to Castillo, the only English language bookstore left in Queens is Astoria Bookshop, located at 31-29 31st Street. They’ve reached out to Astoria Bookshop, as well as other indie bookstores around the city, and so far the support has been overwhelming.
To garner more support, The Queens Bookshop is planning on visiting other neighborhoods such as Fresh Meadows and Bayside, who’ve also lost their Barnes & Noble stores recently. They also plan on visiting other sites, such as college campuses.
“The more people that know about us, the better it will be,” Noboa said.