BY JON CRONIN
Queens may be a bit closer to getting their own bookstore once again.
The women behind the Queens Bookshop Initiative started a crowd funding campaign on Kickstarter and in less than a week have already received over $13,000.
Holly Nikodem, Natalie Noboa, Vina Castillo each have years of retail management experience under their belts. They incorporated their business at the beginning of the year, created their business plan and filed their first year of taxes. Now they’re hoping to prove to future investors that the community is behind the idea through the Kickstarter campaign.
Nikodem pointed out that Kickstarter projects are finite events and their goal of $70,000 must be accomplished by June 23. “If you don’t make your entire goal, you lose everything,” she said.
“The Kickstarter is to cover some of the costs – not the whole endeavor. Like Holly said, we are approaching banks, either way. I would also consider possibly a mobile/pop up bookstore, then eventually move on to a larger scale,” said Castillo.
When asked how they will compete in a borough where Barnes and Noble couldn’t, Nikodem said. “Independent bookstores are different. They can adapt to their communities.” She said they have gained more traction in recent years since the bigger stores closed.
“Even Amazon has realized people like brick and mortar stores. They’re doing their beta run on the west coast,” she added.
They would know how those big box bookstores worked. Each of them met as managers at the Barnes and Noble on Austin Street which closed this past January. They each left before the store closed for other jobs, but came back on the last day to spend time with their former co-workers. It was then that they hatched their plan in conversation with the others. “Nat and I took the idea seriously,” said Nikodem.
“People are looking for an analog experience. They want to be able to browse the shelves,” she noted. In her research, she’s discovered that most people purchase their first book at a bookstore and their next online.
“One of our biggest talking points is to be a community center. I want us to be that cool little place that you bring your out of town friends to,” boasted Nikodem.
Last weekend the trio held a story time event in Russell Sage Park in Forest Hills, not far from a Barnes and Noble store that closed in January. “We want to make story time in the park more of a regular thing. Maybe once or twice a month,” she said. They hope to be hosting more of their own events in May and June, but is nothing finalized yet.
They also recently partnered up with the organizer of the Queens Lit Fest, Mike Geffner and will have a booth there at the Lit Fest in July.
“Our Independent Bookstore day event was such a success, and we really hope to continue that streak throughout the campaign. We are in the very early stages of planning a literary market with local vendors. We will be a part of Earth Citizens Club event on Mother’s day this Sunday at the Austin playground from 12PM-3:30PM,” said Castillo.
Because the neighborhood is already accustomed to a bookstore they have been “poking our noses around a couple open spaces,” that are around 1,200 to 1,800 square feet in Kew Gardens and Forest Hills.
“They want that lifestyle back,” she said of the community and added that the rent is “pretty good as long as you’re not on Austin Street.”
She admitted, “There’s always the fear that people who have supported will not show up, or that many people wouldn’t care.”
If their Kickstarter project doesn’t succeed, “Its gonna take longer,” she said, they’re going to have to use the old fashioned form of solely going through banks. “It doesn’t mean we’re gonna give up.”
Yet Nikodem and her partners are determined, “Queens deserves more, it deserves better.”
To donate to their Kickstarter campaign click here http://www.kck.st/1pudsww
Reach Reporter Jon Cronin at (718) 357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin