The Bronx, home to about 1.5 million people, no longer has even one public bookstore after the Barnes and Noble in Bay Plaza closed in December, but a local woman has launched a campaign to replace the chain with an independent bookstore.
When Barnes and Noble said two years ago that it might close the only bookstore in the Bronx, Noelle Santos had an idea.
"It's called the Lit Bar," she said.
She thought of opening a different kind of bookstore, one that would double as a wine bar.
Santos thought it could represent a touch of sophistication in the south Bronx.
"The theme is going to be grafitti and chandeliers," she said.
Then, Barnes and Noble announced it would close its store in Bay Plaza. The giant book retailer said it would look for a new location in the Bronx, but it made no guarantees.
Santos felt it was time to act.
"I'm not going to wait while my community's lifeline is up for negotiation," she said. "I'm going to do something about this."
Santos even has her eye on a potential site in Hunts Point.
Some books would be used or donated, and she hopes to open the space to the community for events.
It's a model Santos has adopted from her mentors at Word Up Community Bookshop in Washington Heights. She's spent time there learning the ropes and even taken a couple of pages out of Word Up's book.
Santos completed her own pop-up shop at the Bronx Museum Holiday Market in December and tested the market.
"I started a book club that I thought would be like a 10-person focus group," she said. "I ended up with an over 350-member book club called Readers and Shakers."
Now, she's launched a crowd-funding campaign on the site Indiegogo asking for $100,000 for inventory and equipment.
Santos will dip into her own pockets and try to secure any loans or grants available to small businesses. She's not concerned about Barnes and Noble making a return.
If and when Barnes and Noble reopens in the Bronx, Santos says the Lit Bar will offer something bookstore chains usually don't. It would cater to the community.
"60 percent of my population, if not more here, speaks Spanish. We want our inventory to reflect that. We want to have multi-lingual books," she said.
If all goes as planned, the Lit Bar will open later this year.
Readers and Shakers Book Club meets every last Sunday of the month at Mott Haven Bar and Grill, located at 1 Bruckner Blvd in the Bronx.