by Gary Axelbank
Since Barnes & Noble abandoned the Bronx a little more than a year ago and left the borough of 1.4 million people without a bookstore, Noelle Santos’ dream of a Bronx bookstore, a dream that was shared across the borough, is now coming true.
Having reached agreement on 2300 square feet of space at 131-135 Alexander Avenue in Mott Haven, Ms. Santos is preparing to build and eventually open The Lit. Bar, a combination bookstore and wine bar.
“I have been complaining my whole life that we don’t have this and we don’t have that in the Bronx,” she said in an interview. “The bookstore that closed, that was personal for me. So I changed everything I had planned for my whole life.”
Currently an HR director at a Wall Street IT firm, she is planning to walk away from that and pursue her passion.
“I will give it up and be poor and happy,” she said with a smile.
The Alexander Avenue location, which is just a block north of Bruckner Boulevard and next door to the popular Ceetay restaurant, is part of a bourgeoning area that some locals say is the epicenter of Bronx gentrification that will lock many Bronxites out. To that she says, with a dash of Bronx ‘tude, bring it on.
“This project is a form of activism for me,” she said. “I do not support gentrification, but at the same time the change is happening and I want to make sure that we, Bronx natives, are represented in these market-rate districts and we are doing what we can do to preserve Bronx culture as much as possible, instead of just handing it over to someone else.”
She promises that effort at The Lit. Bar will include only-Bronx employees, a diverse inventory made up of languages and cultures common to the Bronx, a Bronx-friendly menu, and events that specifically reflect her own Latina and African-American roots.
“I want it to be a place that reflects progression, but at the same time is still home for Bronx natives as we are today,” she said. “There is so much talent in the Bronx, but we go and win all the competitions and poetry slams in other boroughs and we have to sell our books out of the trunks of our cars. I want to provide opportunities for us to showcase our talent.”
At this point, according to Ms. Santos, the projected opening for the Lit. Bar on Alexander Avenue is set for late January or early February.