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Bushwick Looks to Become Mecca For Books

By Meredith Hoffman | August 9, 2012 8:34am | Updated on August 9, 2012 9:10am

BUSHWICK — The night before he threw the opening bash for Molasses Books, Bushwick's inaugural bookstore, owner Matthew Winn got some startling news — eight blocks down the street, another used-books store was also about to unveil its stacks.

"My friend told me... the guys from Book Thug Nation were painting the walls," Winn said, speaking about the owners of an already popular Williamsburg bookstore. The friend had seen Winn's competitors preparing their new Flushing Avenue store, Human Relations, which is set to open this weekend. "I thought, at least I was a couple of weeks ahead," he said. "I was the first bookstore."

But now that Winn's Hart Street shop is a couple of weeks old and has drawn media attention, regular customers, and new clients each day, the laid-back entrepreneur hopes the two stores might foster a "literary enclave" off the DeKalb L subway stop — and he expects that the two spots will serve different roles in the rapidly growing community.

"I don't think they would've done this if they'd known I was opening a shop, and I wouldn't have either if I knew they were opening theirs," he admitted. "It's a weird mistake... but now it might do something interesting to the neighborhood. I'm super psyched."

A Book Thug Nation employee, named Kristen (who declined to give her last name), agreed. "It sets up a book culture that can be advantageous for both parties," she said, claiming that in the Williamsburg store off Bedford Avenue, the presence of another bookstore, as well as sidewalk book vendors around the corner, had been positive for business.

Human Relations — which has its grand opening party Saturday — will be a more traditional bookstore, a Book Thug Nation staff member said, offering a diverse array of literature, philosophy, art books, and foreign language texts. Winn, on the other hand, said half the revenues at Molasses come from coffee (and hopefully alcohol soon, he said, after he gets his liquor license for beer and wine).

For some neighbors of Molasses Books, the addition of two new bookstores in the vicinity will do wonders for a slice of Bushwick that's been starved of certain amenities.

"Just this store opening completely changes the neighborhood," said Matthew Radune, 35, an artist and record buyer who was buying an iced coffee in Molasses Wednesday after discovering the new spot (which also has wi-fi). "It used to be a 10-minute walk to the nearest coffee place."

And Marvin Mann, whose furniture business had used the bookstore's space for storage until ten years ago, gave his stamp of approval to the new tenants when he visited Wednesday.

"The people in the area are interested in these sort of products now," said Mann, who said he has owned a building around the corner the past 40 years. "It's interesting. There are a lot of people making changes."