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THE COURIER/ Photo by Eric Jankiewicz
THE COURIER/ Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

While the world was saying goodbye to 2014, dozens of Queens shoppers bid a sad farewell to the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Fresh Meadows on its final day of business Wednesday.

The bookstore was quiet on its last day, with many clearance shelves already emptied out by bargain hunters. Workers piled leftover books on dollies to be delivered to the chain’s Forest Hills location. Customers picked through boxes of books that were marked down 50 percent.

During its decade in Fresh Meadows, residents and local leaders say the book retailer had become more than just a store. For many, the bookshop had been a community center complete with a coffee shop and children’s reading groups. The last customers lamented its passing.

“This library is a staple of the neighborhood,” said Veronica Sorrell, a longtime customer who came to the store on its last day. “And I never thought this place would close.”

Sorrell said the shop had become a quiet refuge for her and her family over the years.

“I practically raised my kids here,” she said. “When they were children I brought them to the story time sessions. And as they get older they slowly graduated to the fiction section. Now that’s all gone.”

Nearby, Sister Winifred Doyle searched for a puzzle book.

“I knew it was the last day,” she said. “And I knew I had to come in here one last time.”

She continued, “You know, I love a good puzzle, especially word puzzles. It doesn’t matter how difficult they are. I beat them. But, for the life of me, I can’t solve the puzzle of why this store is closing.”

The store has been in the area since 2004, and Barnes & Noble’s management will not be renewing its lease. The book chain’s management couldn’t reach an agreement over a lease extension earlier this year. A T.J. Maxx is set to replace the book store in 2015.

“We had discussions with the property owner to try to structure a lease extension, but were not able to come to an agreement,” said David Deason, the vice president of development for Barnes & Noble. “We enjoyed serving our St. John’s/Fresh Meadows-area customers for the last 10 years and look forward to continuing to serve them at the nearby Bayside location.”

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