Nöelle Santos is a woman on a mission: giving her borough a bookstore. The Bronx, where Santos resides, has ten colleges, 1.4 million people and, currently, zero bookstores. Santos told mitú that this was just unacceptable so she is doing something about it.
Nöelle Santos, 30, wants to give her neighborhood a unique and accessible bookstore.
According to the website, The Lit. Bar will be more than just a bookstore. The dream project of Santos, who has a bachelor’s in business management and accounting and master’s in human resources management from Lehman College, will be a bookstore, wine bar and community center.
“I saw this petition going around online in October 2014 and it said that the Barnes & Noble in Co-Op City in Bay Plaza was in jeopardy of being closed; that the landlord didn’t want to extend the lease because they wanted a more affluent tenant, someone who could pay more rent,” Santos told mitú.
The looming, and eventual, threat of the Bronx losing their only bookstore launched Santos into action.
“I was inspired to do something about it. It was unacceptable to me that there are 1.4 million people in The Bronx and 10 colleges and we only had one bookstore. I decided right then and there that I was going to do something about it; that I was going to open my own bookstore and make it more accessible because I drive but that’s not the case for most people in my borough,” Santos told mitú. “It was really hard to get all the way to Co-Op City. There’s no train that goes over there; that goes all the way to the northeast. Also, it’s a corporate chain store so it never reflected our local people and the demographic that we have here, so I figured that I could do something really special for The Bronx by bringing a second bookstore and it just so happens that now I’m going to be the only one.”
Santos understands the importance of literacy in getting any education.
“First, I need to give people in The Bronx access to books. Just at its core, books and reading and literacy are the foundations for any type of learning so my people need access to books first and foremost. Secondly, specifically where I’m from in the south Bronx, we’ve seen a wave of gentrification and we’ve seen a more affluent demographic move into the borough and gentrification is a thing,” Santos mentioned to mitú about the need for a neighborhood bookstore where neighbors can meet and talk about tense issues.
But she also hopes that the bookstore becomes a place of community.
“I don’t want to see the borough become ‘The Tale Of Two Cities’ where you have the rich on one side and the poor on the other. I want to make a home for people to actually connect and communicate about these issues and become real neighbors and I can’t think of a better way to do that than through wine and books,” Santos expressed about her hopes of bringing community together through books.
The Boricua bookstore owner is also dedicated to making sure her store reflects her community.
“My inventory is going to be general interest but we’re going to specialize in women’s and local interest, whatever that may be at that time,” Santos said adding that, “about 60 percent of my population speaks Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish myself but I’m going to make sure that I have somebody on staff at all times that speaks Spanish and I’m also going to look into the statistics and I’m going to also address other languages other than Spanish.”
Santos also encourages others to start their own bookstores if they live in underserved neighborhoods because independent bookstores are doing just fine.
“We are thriving and don’t be afraid because you see Borders closing and Barnes & Noble closing down. Independent bookstore sales and statistics are nothing like Barnes & Noble,” Santos stated to mitú. “They abandoned local communities and became corporations and they are feeling the affects of that because the only way they can compete with Amazon is on price and you know who’s going to win there.”
If you’d like to donate to Santos’ crowdfunding efforts, you can click here.
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