By Rich Bockmann
Bell Boulevard in Bayside is primarily known as a hot spot for dining and nightlife, but an unassuming little shop may make the strip one of the borough’s literary destinations.
Just a few blocks down the street from mega-chain Barnes & Noble, Turn the Page Again’s reputation as one of Queens’ best independent bookstores is not the only thing that makes it unique.
“We’re a nonprofit training program. Besides running an active business, our workers get a salary and a training program that helps them get back in the workforce,” said store manager Elle Fliegal.
Opened in 2010, the store is run by the nonprofit Transitional Services for New York Inc., which provides services for people with mental disabilities. The employees at Turn The Page work in the store for a period of about six to nine months while they gain valuable job training, with the goal of finding more permanent employment.
“They’re looking to get to the point where they can get back to work,” Fliegal said. “It’s a stepping stone.”
Knowing that your book bucks are going to a good cause is not the only reason to spend your time perusing Turn The Page Again’s shelves, as it can hang with some of the city’s biggest names in books.
The website for MetroFocus, Channel 13’s news magazine, recently recognized the store as one of the city’s best independent book shops along with Brooklyn’s Word and Manhattan’s The Strand Book Store.
All of the shop’s books are donated, keeping prices low. No book in the store costs more than $5 and the shop runs regular specials, such as any two children’s, teen or special interest titles for $3 in August.
People passing by the store front, at 39-15a Bell Blvd., can peruse titles on the $1 book cart, and the store even has a small stack of free tomes just inside the door.
Readers can even bring their own books in and either make a tax-deductible donation or exchange them for store credit.
“Some people even bring their books back in when they’re done reading them,” Fliegal said, “which is good for us, because they’re already priced and labeled.”
The store has both on- and off-site storage, so the shelves are always fully stocked with titles ranging from best sellers to biographies as well as genre fiction and special interests such as women’s studies. Customers who purchase a snack even get a free cup of coffee. If you cannot find the particular book you are looking for, the shop has a wish list so employees can keep their eyes open for your title and contact you when it comes in.
Turn the Page Again has a dedicated children’s section and a community bulletin board, and yelp.com reviewers give the store high marks for its customer service and small-shop charm.
“We’re not a typical bookstore,” Fliegal said.
Transitional Services for New York Inc. is looking into opening another nonprofit store based on the Turn the Page Again model, so keep your eyes open.
Turn the Page Again is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 718-767-2341 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.