By Alex Robinson
In an age when e-readers are becoming more common than physical books, independent bookstores need all the help they can get.
It therefore came as a pleasant surprise for Astoria Bookshop owner Lexi Beach when she won a grant from James Patterson, a best-selling author who has pledged to donate $1 million to bookstores across the country.
“I was really grateful to get this kind of vote of confidence that I’ve been doing things well,” said Beach, who opened the shop, at 31-29 31st St., last August. “It gives me room to make some improvements I had been thinking about and hadn’t quite justified the expense yet.”
The $3,500 grant will allow Beach to buy a new receipt printer and barcode scanner so she can process transactions electronically at school book fairs. It will also allow her to purchase acoustic-grade storm windows to lessen the noise from the N and Q trains, which run right on top of the store along 31st Street.
“I will be very happy if I can minimize the impact of the noise on my customers during events,” Beach said.
The store holds a busy schedule of events, including story times for children and author readings.
Beach heard about Patterson’s program when he gave out his first round of grants in February. He has given out at least $500,000 in donations to independent booksellers to date.
The bookstore owner said there was no obvious way to apply for the grant, but she entered her name, contact information and the address of the store on Patterson’s website. A few weeks later, she received an e-mail informing her she had been awarded one of the donations.
“I thought since there was no clear way to apply, it seemed unlikely I was going to get anything, but Patterson has been a real advocate for independent bookstores,” she said. “I think he wants to make sure we can all continue to be doing the good work we’re trying to do in providing a space for the community to come and browse for books.”
The shop is one of the two independent bookshops that opened in Astoria last year, along with Enigma Bookstore, a science-fiction and fantasy bookseller, which opened in July.
When Beach, who lives on the Upper West Side, was looking for a location for her new business, she said Astoria was an obvious choice as there was a high demand for a small bookstores in the neighborhood.
“There wasn’t anything else at the time and there are tons of people in the publishing industry that live here,” she said. “The more research I did on what it takes to run a bookstore, the more I realized if I didn’t do this, someone else was going to.”
As the store approaches its first anniversary, Beach said she is grateful for the warm reception she has gotten from the neighborhood.
“I have people come in every day who say how happy they are there is a bookstore in the neighborhood,” she said “I feel very lucky to have the community that I do.”
Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.