Patrons who came to visit the store in its finals days said they were saddened by empty shelves, left bare after the store sold hundreds of books and stationery products at 30 to 50 percent off standard pricing in the last month.
“It’s really sad,” said Priscilla Perez, 27, a lab worker from Kew Gardens, who said she shopped at the store since high school. “I’m heartbroken.”
The store, at 70-00 Austin St., which opened in 1995, announced in August that it was not able to reach an agreement over its lease with its landlord Muss Development, and would close by the end of December.
Next July, it will be replaced by Target, which will take over the entire two-level, 21,000-square-foot location, according to Muss Development.
Over the years, Barnes & Noble became much more than a bookstore. It was a place where parents came to play with children, students worked on their homework and seniors met for a chat.
Earlier this year, Forest Hills residents started an online petition hoping to keep the store open. It was signed by nearly 6,300 people.
“It has become a tradition which bonded and inspired generations in the heart of the business district,” historian Michael Perlman, who started the petition, said about the store.
“We should be looking forward to celebrating its 20 years on Austin Street and 36 years since the store's opening in a smaller storefront at 107-24 Continental Ave.,” he said. “Rather, we will need to take some time to mourn its loss in Forest Hills. 2016 marks a New Year, but not a new chapter.”
Residents said they would like the store to reopen one day in Forest Hills.
“This neighborhood needs something like this,” said Marco Illanes, 42, an IT administrator.
“I don’t think having a Target really works around here.”
Illanes, who as a high school student used to hang out at Barnes & Noble with his friends every Friday, said he came to the store on Wednesday because he wanted to visit it for the last time before it closes.
“Nothing beats coming here and looking at books," he said.
The bookstore chain, which is also closing its store in Bayside, the last one in the borough, said it won't give up on Queens.
"The Queens community is extremely important to us and as a result we are aggressively looking at new locations and expect to have a new store there in the future,” David Deason, the vice president of development at Barnes & Noble said in August.
Perlman said he approached the chain officials with several possible locations in Forest Hills.
Barnes & Noble did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Thursday, but last month, its spokesman said the chain is “still evaluating opportunities.”