Noëlle Santos was not going to let the Bronx's only bookstore close without a fight.
In 2014, Barnes & Noble announced it was shuttering its lone store in the Bronx, the New York City borough that is home to more than 1.5 million people. It was also the only bookstore in the Bronx, and Santos joined thousands of others to protest its closure. They were successful in getting Barnes & Noble to stay open two more years, with the bookstore closing its doors in 2016.
Santos, a Bronx native, adored reading. As a kid, books were "my window outside of my little five-block radius, which many of my peers never expanded beyond," she told Inside Edition. "That was my door to see other cultures, to gain empathy, to learn different topics, different subjects, and I became addicted to that." The idea of not having a place to buy books in the borough bothered her, and Santos started looking into what it would take to open her own independent bookstore.
Santos quit her job in human resources, and spent hour after hour conducting research, coming up with a business plan, and figuring out financials. Last April, her bookstore, The Lit. Bar, opened on National Independent Bookstore Day. It's a bookstore, wine bar, and community center, and "our mission is to give the community additional access to literature and create intellectual visibility in the Bronx," Santos said. The Lit. Bar reflects the community with its inventory and staff, Santos said, and it's "incredibly touching" to hear from kids who see themselves represented in the books for sale. Catherine Garcia