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The Bronx’s Only Independent Bookstore Is Black-Owned

By Parker Diakite

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In October of 2014, Bronx native Noëlle Santos joined more than 3,000 protestors to save the only bookstore in the borough from closing its doors.

And their efforts worked.

The public outcry had a domino effect that caused public officials to step in to help with rent negotiations after the Barnes & Noble store in the area considered leaving.

That only lasted for two years.  The store ultimately had to close due to rent inflation, leaving the Bronx without a bookstore.

Despite the outrage and sense of loss, Noelle Santos used that moment to birth a dream of own. 

Three years later, she would open the only bookstore in the Bronx, known as The Lit.Bar. 

The Lit.Bar owner Noëlle Santos Photo courtesy of The Lit.Bar

After realizing the Bronx needed more books, she opened the only general bookstore in the borough in April known as The Lit. Bar.

Santos recognized that residents in the Bronx were grossly underserved. To meet the needs of residents, The Lit.Bar aims to address the shortcoming of big-box stores: reflecting and serving the unique needs of the communities they operate in. 

Her vision for The Lit.Bar is to be the premier venue for Bronxites and visitors that creates a haven that inspires reading, encourages healthy social interaction, highlights diverse voices, and increases intellectual visibility in the Bronx.

Instagram | @thelitbar

During her opening week, readers left only two books on her shelves, forcing staff to shift to part-time hours temporarily to restock inventory.

“They completely bought out the store,” Santos said in an interview with AM New York.

Known as the “official bookstore of Wakanda and The Bronx,” Santos, who identifies as Afro Latina, has stocked her shelves with a variety of popular fiction and nonfiction literature, with a focus on marginalized voices.

The Lit.Bar owner Noëlle Santos Photo courtesy of The Lit.Bar

It’s hard to miss The.LitBar, located in the Mott Haven.  Outside the brick walls, you will find graffiti art that depicts a young girl of color, wearing two afro puffs with spray paint cans in her handwriting the words, “reach the world but touch the hood first” just inches away from a “bookstore & chill” sign.

In addition to books, you will find a café and wine bar decorated with wall murals and books donated by the local community.

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