The Bronx Didn’t Have a Single Bookstore—Until Now!

Noëlle Santos’s Lit. Bar: “Bookstore and chill.”

Photo by Tom Herman/Unsplash

For those of us who reside in four out of the five New York City boroughs, it may come as a surprise that not a single bookstore has popped up in the Bronx in more than a year. In this town? Cray-z! People seriously strut around Manhattan sporting tote bags advertising the Strand. Theater lovers rejoiced when the beloved more-than-100-year-old Drama Book Shop was recently saved. And that’s not to mention the list we’ve already assembled of our favorite indie bookstores all over the city. Given all that, for this week’s ICYMI: our new favorite indie bookseller! In, you guessed it, the Bronx.

the lit. bar
Photo courtesy of the Lit. Bar

The Backstory

The saga goes: The previous bookstore to hold the title of Only Bookstore in the Bronx was the national chain Barnes & Noble, which shuttered in 2016. B&N announced plans to close two years prior, but a robust outpouring of community support kept the brick-and-mortar location open a little longer. The loss of bookstores around the country is no doubt tied to larger trends in retail spurred by online shopping titans like that almost Long Island City resident Amazon. Nonetheless, there’s something undeniably unique about both print books and neighborhood bookstores. Like the idealized cafés where French philosophers would congregate, it’s special to have a place where you can browse, read, and connect with other people (isn’t that the lesson of You’ve Got Mail?).

the lit. bar
Photo courtesy of the Lit. Bar

Meet the Protagonist

The woman who made this dream a reality is the incomparable Noëlle Santos. The Bronx native devoted more than two years to fundraising and procuring all of the necessary permits in order to (finally) open the Lit. Bar at 131 Alexander Avenue. As Santos explained in her crowdfunding campaign, a clearly stated mission to “bring a goddamn bookstore to the Bronx,” her home borough has 1.4 million people and 10 colleges all within only 42.7 square miles, but nowhere to buy a copy of Michelle Obama’s Becoming…until now. At the shop, you can ask Santos about the wild ride it took to open!

the lit. bar noelle santos
Photo courtesy of the Lit. Bar/Facebook

The Epilogue (for Now)

OK, there won’t be hard alcohol, but the wine will be flowing. While Ernest Hemingway didn’t necessarily condone reading drunk, he would no doubt approve of this bookstore–wine bar. We’ve established our favorite wines and neighborhood bars around the city, but this addition is a combo deal! Come to peruse books and stay late for a drink. Reading is like opening portals to otherwise inaccessible worlds, and local bookstores and watering holes alike have the ability to foster community and offer people a place to connect with one another.

the lit. bar
Photo courtesy of the Lit. Bar

Ready to spend a day around Alexander Avenue? We’ve got you covered!