After winning a second place prize of $7,500 at the New York Public Library’s New York StartUP! Business Plan Competition, one woman is planning to take her earnings and turn it into something The Bronx needs and can enjoy. Noëlle Santos, an HR manager of Afro-Puerto Rican descent, is preparing to soon open an independent bookstore, The Lit Bar, in her native South Bronx.
Santos’ Lit Bar will reportedly offer a selection of wines and comfortable seating. There will also be a children’s area called Kiddie Liter. “I have a love for literature, and I want to put that message out there that [the Bronx is] not burning anymore. This is my contribution,” she told DNAinfo.
Santos’ business plan follows news of the closure of the Barnes & Noble in Co-Op City, which was the only major bookstore left standing in the borough. “Bay Plaza’s Barnes & Noble was there for our Bronx readers, authors, and children when we needed them,” Santos commented on her blog about the bookstore closing. “They invested in us as we were—not in the promise of what luxury condos and the likes could bring.”
Barnes & Noble Vice President of Development David Deason noted the company attempted to extend its lease, but was unable to reach an agreement with the owner. After the bookstore’s closure in 2017, a Saks will be built in its place.
But Santos says her ambitious plan is not a responsibility that she must bare alone, but one that all Bronx residents must hold. She feels that if residents join in to help out with her business plan, it will most definitely be successful.
Justine Manzano, a Bronx-bred writer says she thinks Santos’ business plan is spot-on in addressing the need of Bronxites. “Noëlle’s entire business idea is built on that — she wants to bring other services to the bookstore for this reason,” Manzano told DNAinfo. “Bronxites feel a connection through our pride for where we live, and she is one of us. She gets us.”
Manzano also noted literature and other forms of art are such a vital part of the borough’s culture, yet often overlooked. “Reading and writing are such a huge part of what it takes to elevate people as a whole, and the Bronx is largely cut off from access,” she added.
Despite having limited access to libraries nearby, attendance at Bronx libraries has increased by 225 percent between 2002 and 2014, according to a study conducted by the Center for an Urban Future. If Santos’ business plan succeeds, she will have established the only independent bookstore in The Bronx. She is currently working with development groups to find spaces for the store in the borough: “I want to tell other Bronxites that we don’t have to run away from where we’re from, we can make this a better place.”