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Word Up Book Shop Hopes to Reopen before the End of Spring

By Nigel Chiwaya | March 13, 2013 4:09pm

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — With a little bit of luck, a beloved neighborhood book store will soon be back to offering reads to uptown residents.

Word Up Community Book Shop, an all-volunteer book store that closed its doors last summer, is closing in on a Washington Heights location with the hope of reopening before the end of the spring.

"We're still looking for the perfect spot," organizer Veronica Liu said. "We're hopefully closing in on one. We have a spot that we're pursuing right now, but until we have anything signed I don't want to give out too much."

Liu said that Word Up hopes to find a space located in central Washington Heights, anywhere from 168th to 190th Streets.

Word Up became effectively homeless last August after its landlord raised the price of their month-to-month lease to over $9,000. Since then the store successfully raised $60,000 on IndieGoGo and received a separate grant from the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance in an effort to find a new space. 

Liu said that the store's team has looked at over 20 locations in Washington Heights and that they have called even more than that. However Liu said that the process has been slow due to high commercial rent prices in Washington Heights.

The volunteers haven't been idle during the downtime. Liu said that Word Up has held several events, including a pop-up book sale at the United Palace and an afterschool program with the People's Theater Project. The book store is teaming up with NoMAA and the Fort Tryon Jewish Center to present west coast artist Jerome Rothenberg Sunday at the NoMAA Gallery.

And while some may worry about the long-term stability of the bookstore, Liu contends that Word Up was in great shape financially and would have continued had its landlord not raised the rent.

"When people talk about the death of bookstores, I think they mean big box stores," Liu said. "There's a lot of good tight indie bookstores that are on a much smaller scale that are thriving."