The Only Bookstore in The Bronx Fosters Community Reading

After years of not having a bookstore in the borough, one has finally opened in the Bronx, New York. On Saturday, April 27, residents and community leaders gathered for the grand opening of The Lit. Bar, WCBS-TV reported. The store, which is located at 131 Alexander Avenue in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the Bronx, fittingly made its grand opening on Independent Bookstore Day.

Owner Noëlle Santos was raised in the Bronx and always had a passion for reading. She told The New York Times that she came across an online petition to save the Barnes & Noble brick and mortar bookstore in the Bronx in 2014, and was shocked that the NYC borough would be completely devoid of a bookseller. Barnes & Noble closed its doors in January 2017 due to the increasing cost of rent, according to Curbed NY.

Santos, who worked in human resources after she graduated college, began volunteering in small, independent bookstores and took classes on how to own a bookstore, according to The Times. She entered a statewide business startup competition in 2016 where she received the second-place award of $7,5000 and used the winnings to open up The Lit. Bar as a pop-up book shop at the Bronx Museum of the Arts. Santos raised an additional $170,000 through a crowdfunding campaign to open her bookstore.

“Up to that point I had measured my success by how far I could get away from the Bronx,’’ she told The Times. “I was disappointed in myself for thinking about leaving a community in no better condition that I had found it. I had never been inside an independent book store before I decided to open one.” The Lit. Bar store sells books that cater to the people who live in the community, Santos told WPIX 11. “I carefully curate the store, make sure the inventory reflects the... Latin and African American communities, LGBT," Santos said. The store also features books for all ages and includes a wine bar.

“This is my give-back to the community,” Santos told the news station. “I lit my life on fire to do this for my community because there was such a big need.” The North Star has reached out to Santos for comment about the grand opening of the store but did not hear back in time for publication.

Community leaders praised Santos and urged residents to support the local business. "All of the Bronx is behind The Lit. Bar and we are so proud to have this store in our borough. Now it’s up to the community to come out in support of this venture and to show the world how the Bronx values its local businesses," Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. told The North Star. "The excitement around The Lit. Bar will inspire others to invest in the Bronx because there is so much to offer here."

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.