May 25, 2013 By Bill Parry
Book lovers will finally have an independent book store later this summer, the first in Astoria since Sam Chekwas closed his Seaburn Bookstore in December, 2011.
Lexi Beach and Connie Rourke signed a lease this month for a 1,200 sq-foot retail property at 31-29 31st Street after a search that started last fall. They plan on opening The Astoria Bookshop by mid-August.
“We were surprised the search took so long,” Beach said. However, landlords were wary. “They thought a bookstore was too much of a risk after what happened with Borders and Barnes & Noble.”
The rise of E-commerce led to the bankruptcy of Borders in 2011 and the closure of several Barnes & Noble stores.
“We had a lot of situations where landlords didn’t even call us back,” Rourke said. However, the two were determined to open their business—and in Astoria.
“We feel a connection to Astorians,” Rourke said. The mix of the “lifelong residents and all the new blood — it’s so vibrant and unified.” However, she said, there is one thing missing: a brick and mortar bookstore.
“There’s a hole in the marketplace,” Beach said. “The more I looked into it, the more I realized it was the right path to walk down.”
They said their decision to locate here was aided by a poll that was released by the Steinway Astoria Partnership that showed a bookstore topped Astorians’ wish list.
The two plan a community bookstore with workshops for writers, children’s story hours, cookbook tastings and author signings.
The Astoria Bookshop will also sell books online next month.
The women are aware that their bookshop’s arrival has created a buzz among Astoria’s book lovers. “No one could be more excited than we are,” said Beach.