Exciting new independent bookstores are popping up all over New York

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There’s no substitute for browsing a local bookstore – running your fingers along the spines of books, inhaling the distinct paperback aroma, and finding a new paperback to bring back to your TBR pile.

Sure, we can order books online in a snap for next-day delivery, but while there’s a silver lining to the pandemic, it seems many have realized the value of buying local instead. A multitude of independent bookstores are springing up around New York, with a secret bookshop behind a bodega at Green Point, a shop in Park Slope covering genresa vintage bookstore with specialty teas in Bed-Stuy, a sustainability-focused bookstore in Greenpoint called Leaves, a second Books are magic store come to Brooklyn Heights and a New Location of McNally Jackson opening at Rockefeller Center.

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The trend isn’t just in New York. More than 300 new independent bookstores have opened across the country in recent years, rebounding from struggling at the start of the pandemic, The New York Times announced this summer. Some 200 more are expected to open in the next two years, for The temperature.

Amid the pandemic, Jason Mojica and his son started selling graphic novels on the sidewalk to pass the time, and he “discovered the joy of selling books.” He opened Hey Kids Comics! last year, then opened “old-school used bookstore” Burnt Books this summer at its neighborhood bodega, Green Discount Corp. (1014 Manhattan Ave.). While chatting at the store counter, Mojica realized that the Greenpoint bodega had a little more space and he had some extra books to sell, so they decided to team up.

Photography: Courtesy of Jason Mojica | Buy art books, cords and batteries at one bodega.

Burnt Books specializes in vintage paperbacks, science fiction, mystery, art, and New York tourist books. Some readers are looking for burnt books, while others stumble upon them.

“The joy of a good bookstore is walking in and finding something you didn’t know you were looking for,” Mojica said. “It’s kind of that times two. You walk into a place without even looking for books. You literally look for a plunger or some ramen and walk out with a 100-year-old book on typography,” Mojica said. .

At Hey Kids!, which specializes in comics and graphic novels for all ages, customers even enter special order books and patiently wait for them rather than buying from Amazon.

Watching places we loved closing…it makes you cherish those who survive and also want to support those who reopen because you realize you can help keep them there.

“My hunch and also personal experience is that during the pandemic, those of us who have stayed in New York or lived in cities have seen firsthand the direct connection our spending has with our neighborhood and whether the companies succeed or fail,” Mojica said. “Watching places we loved closing…it makes you cherish those who survive and you also want to support those who are opening up again because you realize you can help keep them there. Basically things won’t be there if you don’t’ I don’t support them.”

A few miles away in Park Slope, Alex Brooks notices a similar energy at his new bookstore Troubled Sleep (129 6th Ave.), which was also born out of a collective of street booksellers. Just six weeks later, Brooks said he was already feeling the positive support and appreciation from the neighborhood. Troubled Sleep focuses on leftist art and books, as well as history and philosophy where “we try to stay radical,” Brooks said. It sells new and used books with a mix of popular titles and more obscure authors.

The exterior of the Troubled Sleep Bookstore.
Photography: By Rossilynne Culgan | Troubled Sleep opened this summer on a quiet Brooklyn street.

“A lot of people are really surprised to see bookstores. They’re nice and supportive, but they tell us things like ‘hey good luck’ or ‘it’s a tough deal’. It’s a tough business in the sense that it’s a lot of work, but I think people are surprised it’s a viable business, and it’s no surprise to me that it is,” said Brooks.”I think the written word is a deeply human thing that has persisted through human history for a long time, and I think the written word will always be part of human history.”

Some stores are redefining what it means to be a bookstore.

At Dear Friend in Bed-Stuy, for example, a bar crosses the space selling hot, iced and fermented teas, and the owner Anna Sergeeva hopes to soon sell natural wine, beer and sake. In addition to coffee, Dear Friend has hosted open-mic nights, poetry readings and meditation in the building’s large backyard since opening the store this summer at 343A Tompkins Ave.

The bookstore/coffee shop model has been around for a while, of course, even in big box stores like Barnes & Noble.

“Practically speaking, books are just a really tough business. People are more likely to grab a cup of tea or a glass of wine more often than they are to buy a book,” Sergeeva recognizes. “From a business perspective, it makes a lot of sense.

The interior of the Dear Friend Bookstore with shelves and a bar.
Photography: Courtesy of Anna Sergeeva | Teas are on the menu and the shop will soon be adding beer, wine and sake to the list.

Those who take the time to peruse Dear Friend’s shelves will be rewarded with a curated collection of vintage books ranging from $5 to several thousand dollars. They are neatly organized into categories based on the seven chakras. The crown section contains poetry books, for example, while the throat section features books on language and communication.

“If one of your chakras is blocked, it manifests as ailments, whether spiritual, physical, emotional, and I think a book in its best form can open up a part of you,” he said. she declared.

The collection includes a first edition of “Play It As It Lays” by Joan Didion and a dozen issues of Black Art: An International Quarterly. Some books are out of print and not available online. Sergeeva and her team clean and repair every used book to ensure it is in its best condition.

I see it more as a literary salon type space where people can come and hang out. It’s not just about the transaction of buying a book or an article.

“I see it more as a book salon-type space where people can come and hang out. It’s not just about the transaction of buying a book or an article,” she said. “For me, the exciting part is a place where people can connect and be together rather than the book necessarily as an object.”

She is deeply committed to Bed-Stuy and says she notices a desire for people to shop locally, regardless of category, saying “people are more invested in the community on all fronts.”

Mojica, from Burnt Books, echoes that sentiment.

“When a new bookstore opens, people who now have the pandemic economy fresh in their minds, really cherish it and rally around it and want to support it,” he said. “They realize it’s part of the fabric of their community and they want it to be there.”

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