In a case of déja vu, late last month Barnes & Noble announced that it will be closing its location in the Bronx at Bay Plaza when its lease expires at the end of the year. The statement echoed one that the country’s largest bricks-and-mortar bookstore chain made in 2014. And, once again, the news has caused an uproar in a community that insists it cannot, and should not, lose its only bookstore.
Although Barnes & Noble’s space has already been leased by another retailer, Saks Off 5th, Bronx politicians have again stepped in to try and broker a deal that will allow the bookstore to stay.
When B&N first tried to leave the area, Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr. told PW that local residents needed a bookstore. “It’s important to have a place like this, dedicated to scholarship and learning, where anyone can go to pick up a new biography or a cookbook or something for their children to read," he said. "We are a community of 1.4 million people, and to not have a bookstore within our borders would have been unacceptable."
While Diaz Jr. was successful in keeping the Bay Plaza bookstore open in 2014, Barnes & Noble was only able to get a two-year lease. This time, officials were not able to work out an arrangement with the shopping center's landlord to keep the bookstore. But the bookseller has agreed to relocate in the borough.
“We remain committed to working diligently with local officials to reopen a store in the Bronx in the future as we finalize our new store openings,” David Deason, v-p of development at Barnes & Noble said.
Nonetheless, Barnes & Noble hasn’t set a date when a new Bronx store might open. At present the chain is focused on readying five new "concept stores," which contain wine bars/eateries within the complex. The October opening for the first concept store in Eastchester, N.Y., has been pushed back to December.
As for other stores that might open in the Bronx in the interim, playwright and children's book author Calvin Alexander Ramsey (Ruth and the Greenbook) told PW in May that he wanted to open a children’s pop-up store in the Bronx this fall. But the store isn't open yet.
Noëlle Santos is working on to open a general independent, The Lit Bar. Earlier this year she won $7,500 in the New York Public Library’s New York StartUP! Business Plan Competition, but doesn't have a location yet.
As Santos wrote on her blog following the news of the Bay Plaza store's impending closure: “Overnight, my start-up bookstore/wine bar, The Lit Bar, just went from a cool idea for a sustainable, social enterprise into a state of literary emergency.”