With the cut of a ribbon, a new chapter starts for Kew Gardens.
Kew and Willow Books founders Holly Nikodem, Vina Castillo and Natalie Noboa used to work at the Barnes and Noble in Forest Hills. When the franchise started closing stores in Queens a couple of years ago, they realized there was only one general book shop left in the borough.
"It's not enough,” said Holly Nikodem, a co-owner of Kew & Willow Books.” People like to own their books. They like to build THEIR own library,” she added.
They started a Kickstarter campaign last year. The community raised more than 72 thousand dollars to start the store.
"It was really, really inspiring and emboldening to know that they had our backs,” Nikodem said.
And now thousands of books line the shelves at their new home on Lefferts Boulevard and Beverly Road. There are also tributes to their favorite stories and authors throughout the shop and even a tribute in their store name.
"Kew because Kew Gardens, they've been supportive since the start,” said Vina Castillo, a co-owner at Kew & Willow Books. "We kept thinking of a tree because Forest Hills and I kept thinking of Harry Potter and 'Whomping Willow.’"
Locals say they're glad to have a place to cozy up to a book closer to home.
"I really like books. A lot of people call me bookworm and nerd and I really like them. I think they're interesting," one reader said.
"I hope they make out. I think it's going to be tough. Someone mailed me a book from California. It was nine dollars. Amazon...” another added.
And while online retailers like Amazon might have further reach, the owners of Kew and Willow Books say there are some things you can only get it at your local bookstore.
"We can have events. We can have storytime. Websites can't have storytimes for kids,” Nikodem said.
They also plan on highlighting authors from the borough and participating in neighborhood festivals.
"My hope is that it becomes everyone's bookstore, that it becomes that community spot you go to if you have a date on a Friday night, you're waiting for your movie to start, you go to the bookstore,” said Natalie Noboa, a co-owner at Kew & Willow Books.
The store opens Saturdays and Sundays at 11 AM, giving Queens readers another place to crack open a book.