When Vina Castillo, Natalie Noboa, and Holly Nikodem worked at the Barnes & Noble in the Forest Hills section of Queens, N.Y., they often joked about opening a bookstore. Since that B&N closed, their idea for a Queens bookstore has begun to take shape, with the three projecting it may be another 18 months before the store is open.
“When the [Forest Hills B&N] announced that it was closing [at the end of 2015],” Noboa recalled, “we said, ‘Maybe, we should start our own store.’” Since then, momentum for the project has built.
Earlier this month Astoria Bookshop, the borough’s only general independent bookstore, hit social media to support the idea of new store in the borough. Astoria Bookshop tweeted: “Best news of the day, if not the year: former B&N booksellers are planning to open @bookshopqueens in Forest Hills!” Since that time the three Queens booksellers have been gathering a following on social media, and their recently upgraded website has close to 400 names on the mailing list.
That Queens is hungry for more bookstores comes as little surprise, given the intensity of the petition drive launched last May to keep the Forest Hills B&N open. At one time Barnes & Noble had three stores in Queens; it closed its store in Fresh Meadows at the end of 2014, and a location in Bayside at the end of 2015.
Until Castillo, Noboa, and Nikodem find a space and choose the Queens neighborhood where they’d like to open the store, they have decided not to hold any community meetings. Instead they’ve asked residents to e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org with requests about their ideal bookstore.
The friends have also reached out to those on their e-mail list about what perks they would like for a Kickstarter launch campaign. They plan to open a store between 1,000 to 2,000 sq. ft., which would sell new and used books and feature a large children's book section.
As part of preparing for opening the store, both Castillo and Nikodem plan to attend BookExpo, and all three will take part in this summer’s inaugural Queen’s Book Festival.