Two Indie Bookstores Set to Bring Sci-Fi and Trivia Nights to Astoria

By Jeanmarie Evelly on July 11, 2013 7:13am 

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 The Astoria Bookshop will debut in August, and will joined by sci-fi and fantasty bookshop Enigma.
Astoria Getting Two New Bookstores
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ASTORIA — It's a new chapter for bookstores in the neighborhood.

Astoria is poised to get two new independent bookstores by the end of summer, turning the neighborhood into a hot spot for bibliophiles in a borough that's currently dominated by chain store booksellers.

"Maybe this can be the place where people come for books again," said Claire LaPlaca, 41, who's opening Enigma Bookstore at 33-17 Crescent St. with her fiancé, Hugh Brammer, 42.

The store will specialize in sci-fi, fantasy and mystery reads, the couple says.

Meanwhile, fans of other literary genres won't have to go far: The Astoria Bookshop is planning to open its doors at 31-29 31st St. some time in August.

"Astoria is very, very ready for a bookstore," said Lexi Beach, who is opening the shop with her partner Connie Rourke.

The neighborhood currently has no independent bookstores; Seaburn bookstore closed in 2011.

While Enigma Bookstore will cater to niche readers, The Astoria Bookshop plans to stock everything from cookbooks to best-sellers.

"We do want to have a very broad collection," Beach said. "Astoria is an incredibly diverse neighborhood, and we want it to reflect that."

The duo has been renovating the former office space on 31st Street, where many of the shelves will be portable so they can be moved aside to make space for events. Beach said they're planning a "very robust events calendar" packed with book signings, children's story hours, writers' groups and wine tastings.

"We want to come up with as many reasons as we can for people to come in to the store," she said. "That’s what we view as the role of a community bookstore — as a community space [where] people can gather and find that community of book lovers."

LaPlaca and Brammer have a similar vision for Enigma, though they're looking to appeal to Astoria's sci-fi, fantasy and mystery readers.

"These three genres are the most representative of what we would choose to read," LaPlaca said. "We're just a bunch of nerds who would like to have a bookstore and invite other nerds to come, and celebrate the nerd in all of us."

The couple lives in Howard Beach, but LaPlaca has worked for a local autism nonprofit in Astoria for over a decade. Brammer works in the legal field and is a former bookstore manager.

"We are truly an independent bookstore. We've done everything ourselves," LaPlaca said. "We pulled together every dime, we put things on our backs. It really is a representation of a small, independent business."

The shop will have a backyard garden where customers can lounge and read outdoors, she added. They plan to host a number of events, like murder mystery nights, "geek" trivia competitions, spoken word performances, screenings of old sci-fi movies and reading groups and literacy classes for kids.

LaPlaca said they don't view The Astoria Bookshop as the competition — in fact, they welcome fellow booksellers.

"I think any time anybody brings a book into the world it's an awesome thing," she said. "What we're looking for is a big community, and I think that’s here in Astoria."

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