John Jacob Astor’s name has been purged from the library he founded, but a new book shop gives a shot in the arm to the literary scene in the neighborhood that bares his moniker.
“It’s a general-interest store with a little bit of everything,” said Lexi Beach, who opened the Astoria Bookshop on 31st Street with her partner, Connie Rourke, this summer. “I hope that as we grow, we’ll gradually start tailoring the shop to meet the needs of the community.”
Astor, after whom the western Queens neighborhood was named, was a 19th-century business tycoon who, upon his death, bequeathed part of his fortune to found the Astor Library, which would later merge with several others to form the New York City Public Library.
Book-buying options in Astoria had dried up when the Seaburn Bookstore turned its last page in 2011. But when Astoria Bookshop opened in September, it joined fellow indie bookseller Enigma Bookstore, which set up shop in July, and now the neighborhood has a book scene that is in full swing.
Beach, who had been working in the publishing industry for years, said she did some demographic research that showed Astoria would be a great place for a bookstore.
“The area has a lot of what you need to make it work: families with young kids, creative professionals, a community that supports small businesses,” said Beach, whose favorite book is William Goldman’s “The Princess Bride.”
The Astoria Bookshop, at 31-29th 31st St., has an online shop, and Beach said she finds many customers choose to purchase their titles over the Internet and then pick them up in the store.
The store is also a hot spot for the neighborhood’s up-and-coming literary scene, hosting events like writing workshops, book club meetings and readings with the borough’s own Newtown Literary Journal.
Beach said Susan Kain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” got an enthusiastic reception when she stopped by the store recently to discuss her book.
“I think it speaks to a lot of people,” Beach said. “It addresses a subject that hasn’t been talked about a lot: how our culture is geared toward extroverts. The book shows through a lot of research and data that you’re not doing it wrong if you’re not changing your personality.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.
©2013 Community News Group
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