After the holidays, there will be no more leisurely leafing and coffee sipping at the Barnes & Noble at the Bay Plaza shopping complex in the Bronx. A Saks Off 5th outlet will open in its place.
The Bronx is losing its only bookstore.
A spokesperson for the store said that their closing sale—up to 30 percent off a wide assortment of books and notions—is already underway, and that the store will shutter on Dec. 31.
Locals who are passionate about books and love Barnes & Noble are attempting to persuade corporate officers to stay or move into a smaller space in the same shopping complex.
Bronx Assemblyman Michael Benedetto is holding a petition drive in front of the store at noon on Wednesday to begin to “compile a swath of petitions to deliver to Barnes & Noble to say ‘we love you, the Bronx wants you, please don’t break our hearts.’”
Community action had actually worked to keep the store open. The bookstore was poised to close two years ago, but outcry, and an interventional negotiation by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. for a short-term lease, allowed the bookseller that serves the Bronx’s 1.5 million population to stick around. The last independent bookstore in the Bronx, Books in the Hood, closed in 2011.
Benedetto, a former Bronx teacher, said that while he understands the reality that technology has encroached on literature, there is something special about books for kids: “You bring yourself to Barnes & Noble and you see the entire spectrum of what is available in terms of knowledge. We don’t want our kids to miss out on that, to discover something they can hold in their hands and have forever.”
The local Barnes & Noble opened in 1999 after then Assemblyman Steven Kaufman waged a two-year campaign to get a bookstore near his home.
“I feel terrible,” Kaufman, who reads about a book a week and has purchased hundreds of books from that store, told Metro. “This was a very long, hard-fought battle to bring it into the (Bronx). I ascribe its demise to the Internet.”
Jerry Welkis, president of Welco Realty, said that he’s offered Barnes & Noble long-term leases at a number of other smaller locations inside and outside the mall. The “small concept” stores would be roughly half of its typical 20-25,000 square foot stores.
“Thus far they have not agreed to any of those options,” Welkis told Metro.
Barnes & Noble executives said they haven’t ruled out a different Bronx location.
On Tuesday, Bronx Borough President Diaz plans to meet with other local officials to deploy a strategy to try to get the bookstore to stay.