Trio behind Queens Bookshop aims to raise money to open bookstore after last Barnes & Noble closed down

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The closure of Barnes & Noble in Forest Hills and Bayside sparked strong emotions among Queens residents who would no longer have a general purpose bookstore in the area.

But three former employees are looking to open a bookstore that will fulfill every bibliophile’s needs. Vina Castillo, Natalie Noboa and Holly Nikodem all met and worked at the Forest Hills location and after it closed in January, Castillo proposed that the friends open their own bookshop.

“[Castillo] pointed out that Queens would be left with one English-speaking general purpose bookstore in Astoria,” Nikodem said. “Together, we agreed that it was imperative to open another bookstore to help serve people on the other side of Queens.”

Though the trio does not have an exact location they are leaning heavily toward opening a space in Forest Hills or Kew Gardens because of easy access to public transportation. Nikodem added that those neighborhoods are already used to the presence of a bookstore and that the area is sentimental to the former co-workers.

They launched a Kickstarter campaign on April 24 that will run for two months and they are asking for $70,000. The money will be put toward inventory expenses, a point of sale system and marketing expenses.

Donors will receive exclusive Queens Bookshop Initiative merchandise and “carefully curated lit-themed bags.” Signed copies of books from authors such as Maureen Johnson, Zoraida Cordova, Alex Segura and Aimee Friedman will also be offered.

The group aims to secure a storefront by the end of 2016 and anticipates about two months of building out the bookshop. Nikodem said they hope to open by the 2017 holiday season. It will operate as the Queens Bookshop Initiative until the trademark The Queens Bookshop is finalized.

“We want to be more than a retail shop; we want to be a community space where families can attend storytimes, or local authors can promote their work, or people can simply come together for the love of reading,” she said.

By creating the Kickstarter, the group will allow each Queens resident to have a stake in their community and to “bring back something that our neighborhood was lacking,” Nikodem said.

The Queens Bookshop Initiative will feature new releases, classic titles and books from local authors. The group will also focus on having a strong children’s section to promote literacy and will host events including author signings, poetry readings, children’s storytimes and crafting workshops.

“When people donate they are taking it into their own hands to help us build something they want to see,” Nikodem said. “Every contribution is someone saying, ‘Yes, books are important to me. Yes, a presence to help promote literacy is important to Queens.'”

On April 30, the group will host story time in Russell Sage Playground in Forest hills to celebrate Independent Bookstore day. The event will start at 11 a.m. and end at 2 p.m. with yoga, arts and crafts and read-aloud storytime.

For more information about the initiative and to get up-to-date information about the Kickstarter, visit the Queens Bookshop website, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram page.

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