And while Queens has been left with only one English-language independent bookstore, The Astoria Bookshop, that didn’t stop the Queens Bookshop Initiative from celebrating with their own Storytime in the Park, a literary event for schoolchildren.
The event, held at Russell Sage Playground in Forest Hills, featured yoga classes, arts and crafts, and storytelling for children. Bags with a handcrafted Queens Bookshop Initiative notebook and bookmark were also handed out, as well as free books available to anyone looking for some new reading material.
Forest Hills resident Ilona heard about the event through Facebook. She and her two kids enjoyed visiting the children’s section at the old Barnes & Nobles on Austin Street, which closed recently.
“My daughter actually cried when she heard the store closed,” she said. “Every time we went we bought books for the kids and for myself. There’s a lot of money needed to be raised for this bookstore, but I hope they raise it because we can’t have just one small bookstore for the entire borough."
The women behind the initiative, Holly Nikodem, Natalie Noboa and Vina Castillo, say that although they are not a brick-and-mortar bookstore yet, they still want to celebrate everything a small business and bookstore embodies.
“I spoke with one little kid and he said to me, ‘you know why I love bookstores? Because you can go to a library but you don’t get to keep the book,’” Nikodem said. “He’s everything that we are working towards.”
The three were able to raise $12,000 of a total $70,000 within the first week of their Kickstarter campaign. To avoid a plateau of funds raised, they aim to rotate and update the rewards for the Kickstarter page.
Through social media, community events and an e-mail campaign, they are hoping to spread their message. So far, they have appealed to local authors and designers.
“It keeps growing everyday because as authors find out about the Kickstarter, they email us and get in touch about ways they can help,” Castillo said.
Authors Alex Segura, Megan Abbott and Phil Klay are donating books, while Kate Gavino will also be providing an exclusive illustration. Popular author Maureen Johnson will donate one of her books with a cover that hasn’t been released yet.
Between the launch of their Kickstarter and the community event that was visited by more than 50 people, the women want to continue to be present in the local literary community.
“While we have outlines for further dates, we don’t have another event set in stone just yet,” Noboa said. “But I would love to do this exact event again."