Astoria bookworms to open shop

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Entrepreneurs Lexi Beach and Connie Rourke plan to open Astoria’s only independent book store sometime in 2013.Photo courtesy of Lexi Beach
Entrepreneurs Lexi Beach and Connie Rourke plan to open Astoria’s only independent book store sometime in 2013.

Two Astoria entrepreneurs are starting a new chapter.

Lexi Beach and Connie Rourke plan to open a new bookstore in Astoria sometime next year — the neighborhood’s only independent book shop.

“The evidence I’ve seen from other areas in the city is that New Yorkers of all stripes buy books,” said Beach. “A neighborhood like Astoria with a strong ‘shop local’ initiative and a lot of successful small businesses is especially ripe for an independent bookstore.”

The plot for a bookstore came to Beach after hearing buzz from Astoria residents, lamenting the closure of the neighborhood’s only independent bookstore, Seaburn. Postings on Twitter and whyleaveastoria.com prompted even more positive feedback about the area’s desire for a local book nook.

“I started looking into the realities of opening a bookstore and the benefits of Astoria as the location,” said Beach. “As I learned more and more, the daydream shifted to a semblance of a plan. It’s just grown and developed from there.”

The first-time store openers say they know the key to retail success is having a slow and steady approach to getting the business off the ground, listening to the community and responding to its needs. Beach said they plan to offer optimal customer service and personalized book recommendations to create a unique shopping experience.

“We also believe that a contemporary independent bookstore needs to be more than simply a place to buy books,” said Beach. “We plan to have a robust schedule of events, such as author readings, story hours, book club meetings and writers groups where local residents can come together and share their love of books.”

The pair has also been working with Mackenzi Farquer, a social media expert and owner of Astoria lifestyle shop SITE who has provided insight into the local business community.

Dan Miner of the Long Island City Partnership said the plan for a bookstore speaks volumes about the growth of Astoria. “It indicates that it is a significant enough community that people feel they can get their cultural amenities within the neighborhood,” said Miner.

While Beach and Rourke are still working with real estate brokers to find the perfect location for the Astoria book shop, Beach says the outfit will carry titles for both adults and children, focusing on paperback fiction, cookbooks, children’s items and books and authors that have a connection to Queens.

“Astoria is a vibrant and diverse community, with a lot of great food, culture, and community pride, but it’s lacking a bookstore,” said Beach. “And not just Astorians but residents in all of western Queens are missing out on what a bookstore can offer.”