Rebecca Fitting, co-owner of Brooklyn’s Greenlight Bookstore, is leaving the store she cofounded with Jessica Stockton-Bagnulo 12 years ago. Fitting has sold her stake in the business to Stockton-Bagnulo, a decision that was prompted by the pressures of being both a small business owner and working parent during the pandemic.
“Owning a small business has always been deeply rewarding, but also incredibly challenging, and running Greenlight while parenting through a pandemic has caused me to rethink my personal priorities," Fitting wrote in a statement. "It’s been well chronicled in the media that the pandemic—the lack of access to childcare and the havoc this wreaked—has failed working parents, in particular working mothers, and I am a great example of that." In leaving the bookstore, Fitting said she will be able to “be a more present parent during these unprecedented times, and while my son is still young.”
Fitting and Stockton-Bagnulo opened Greenlight in 2009, and grew the store's initial single location into a community institution, with two full bookstore locations, kiosks across the city, and a stationery store adjacent to their flagship shop. Along the way, their inventive business methods, including their model for crowdsourcing low-interest small and medium-sized loans from individual investors, became an essential model for prospective bookstore owners who aimed to open their doors without banks or traditional lender.
Stockton-Bagnulo said her longtime business partner, who also served as president of the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association, was more than a friend and bookstore owner, calling her “a literary citizen.”
“Greenlight Bookstore wouldn’t exist without Rebecca Fitting,” Stockton-Bagnulo wrote. “Her expertise, creativity, and passion have shaped the company as it has grown from one store to three, from seven employees to over 50, and as it has become part of the fabric of Brooklyn literary and neighborhood life.”
After closing to in-store foot traffic at the beginning of the pandemic, the bookstore has thrived through a combination of e-commerce and a return to general retail operations. Stockton-Bagnulo said that those will continue unabated, and that she plans to continue a store-wide push for greater diversity, equity, and inclusion that the company began last year.
“The only reason I’m not daunted to go from being a partner to a sole owner is that I’m far from solo in this venture now,” she wrote. “The managers and staff at Greenlight are an incredible team, teaching and learning from each other and always thinking about how to continue to make the company better for staff, customers, and the community.”
Fitting told PW that despite her exit from the store, she may still do work in the world of books. "My hope is that leaving Greenlight doesn’t also mean leaving our industry," she said. "I’d love to continue in some to-be-determined capacity, and will be exploring options in the coming weeks and months."
In the store's statement, she also said that she was buoyed by knowing that many others are making similarly big choices in their professional lives. “I like to think that we’ve reached an inflection point, where so many people are reclaiming this moment of adversity by making life-altering changes,” she wrote. “It’s been inspiring to hear others announce that they are changing course, and I’m now humbly and gratefully adding myself to the reinvention ranks.”