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Barnes & Noble holds customer appreciation day at Forest Hills Branch

By Eric Jankiewicz

In an ongoing effort to prevent the Barnes & Noble branch in Forest Hills from closing, residents sought to prove the value of the bookstore by trying their best to buy everything on the shelves.

Community leaders like Michael Perlman began to mobilize after reports emerged that the Barnes & Noble on Austin Street has a lease that is set to expire soon and may not be renewed. Thousands of residents signed a petition online to keep the store open and a “customer appreciation day” was held Sunday, complete with a “buy-in,” area musicians and even a clown.

“Barnes & Noble in Forest Hills feels like a 22,000-square-foot mom-and-pop shop,” Perlman said. “It is highly accessible and an educational, cultural and social resource.” Perlman’s book, “Legendary Locals of Forest Hills and Rego Park,” was on sale Sunday and it quickly sold out.

The petition, which is on change.org, has more than 5,000 signatures and is addressed to Muss Development, the company that owns the retail space that Barnes & Noble occupies. Like the petition, the customer appreciation day was meant to convince Muss Development to come to an agreement over the lease.

According to Borough President Melinda Katz, the two sides are open to negotiating a way to open it.

“My office has reiterated this in candid discussions on behalf of the community with both Muss Development LLC and Barnes & Noble, and urged an agreement,” she said in a letter to the TimesLedger. “Most encouraging has been to hear from both parties a mutual desire to stay open for business on Austin Street.”

She continued, “While the financial challenges that bookstores and landlords face in an ever-changing market are both undeniable and understandable, just as certain is the deep level of organic support from throughout community to have the Forest Hills Barnes & Noble remain open.”

The Sunday event went from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Local musicians Doug Leblang and Louis Moskowitz performed at the café. For the children, Michael Chaut, a magician, and Skittles the Clown held performances.

Free food was provided by nearby vendors such as La Boulangerie, a croissant shop. Cookies and coffee were donated by Red Pipe Organic Café and Knish Nosh. And the first 200 customers received a tote bag from Barnes & Noble.

“We showcased community, and may our unique spirit serve as a testament towards our Forest Hills store’s future,” Perlman said.

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