The winner of $15,000 grant to open a bookstore in Fort Greene says she is confident she can break the spine on her shop next year — and is hoping a “Bookstore Kickoff Party” can help her find more investors and get some juicy real estate tips.
“I’m very optimistic,” said Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, who won the grant from the Brooklyn Public Library. She told The Brooklyn Paper that while she has secured additional funding, she still needs “$250,000 to $300,000 to establish the kind of great bookstore I have in mind.”
So she’s holding the party on Tuesday, Sept. 16.
“You have to make the store a destination for people to come and discuss literature and not just buy books,” she said. To do that, her dream bookstore would form book groups and schedule regular readings by authors.
Plus, if they can buy books in the area, it would actually give them something to talk about when they eat in the restaurants that cropped up all along Fulton Street and DeKalb and Myrtle avenues over the past few years.
“While Fort Greene is one of the premiere restaurant destinations in the city, the residents have voiced a desire for some missing retail basics like a general interest bookstore or a bakery that makes its own bread
and desserts,” said Tom Conscenti, a Fort Greene resident, referring to the results of a Fort Greene Association survey that identified a bookstore and a bakery as the top two retail priorities.
But even though Fort Greene clamored for another bookstore (Dare Books, which specializes in African-American publications, is on on Lafayette Avenue between Ashland Place and St. Felix Street), other booksellers cautioned Bagnulo shouldn’t expect to coast to success.
“It’s a tough business. You have to sell a lot of books to make any money in New York City,” said Yuval Gans, the owner of PS Bookshop, which has been selling used books on Front Street in DUMBO for two years.
As proof, Park Slope’s once thriving compendium of independent sellers on Seventh Avenue withered in recent years with two shops closing.
But Fort Greeners say they’re primed to support their own merchant, because they’ve been passed over before. Plans to bring a national bookseller to the Williamsburg Savings Bank building collapsed as did a project to open an iconic branch of the Brooklyn Public Library in an Enrique Norton-designed building near the Brooklyn Academy of Music. While the building is moving forward, the library will not be a part of it.
“Not only were we getting that Borders, but also the Library. But that all fell through,” said book lover Ursula Hegewish. “We thought we were going to be in book heaven.”
Fort Greene Indie Bookstore Initiative “Bookstore Kickoff Party” will be on Tuesday, Sept. 16 at Cumberland Greene condos (237 Cumberland Avenue, between Lafayette and DeKalb avenues), 7 – 9 pm. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org by Sept. 12.