THE BRONX — The story of Barnes & Noble leaving The Bronx has not reached its final chapter yet.
Although the bookstore in the Bay Plaza Shopping Center is scheduled to close at the end of the year, a group of Bronx politicians have vowed that it will return to the borough.
“We are a borough of book lovers, and Barnes & Noble has been an institution in The Bronx for nearly two decades,” Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said in a statement. "Barnes & Noble has made a commitment to return to The Bronx, and the people of this borough look forward to welcoming them back in the near future.”
The Barnes & Noble at Bay Plaza is the only major bookstore in the borough and is set to be replaced with the fashion retailer Saks OFF 5TH.
This move has upset many Bronxites — as it did roughly two years ago, when it last appeared that the bookstore would be leaving — but the company has said it will return to the borough after coming up with a new business plan to dictate what their stores will look like moving forward, according to the Bronx Borough President’s Office, which has pledged to hold them to this promise.
Rethinking their business plan is expected to take between one and two years, and although the store’s new location will remain up in the air until its actual return, Prestige Properties CEO Sam Shalem has committed to holding space for Barnes & Noble at Bay Plaza if they choose to return there, the Bronx Borough President’s Office said.
Jerry Welkis of Welco Realty, which handles leasing at Bay Plaza, said Prestige Properties would make "every effort to accommodate Barnes & Noble" when the store is ready to return.
Diaz said his office would also work with the New York-based national bookstore chain to identify possible sites that would work with their updated business model.
Vice President of Development at Barnes & Noble David Deason said in a statement that the company would "remain committed" to reopening a store in The Bronx going forward.
The store’s closure will leave The Bronx without a major bookstore, although HR manager Noëlle Santos is working to open an independent one in the borough called The Lit Bar.
She recently won $7,500 toward her goal in the New York Public Library’s New York StartUP! Business Plan Competition and mourned the pending closure of Barnes & Noble in a blog post, writing that the store “was there for our Bronx readers, authors and children when we needed them.”
Councilman Andy King said in a statement that, although he was grateful the store was committed to returning to the borough, he was still very distraught by its closure.
“It's sad when economics rule over service to the community,” he said. “The thought of a possible return to the Bronx in two years still creates a void for those who have depended on the Bronx Barnes & Noble to get literature, take part in family programs and earn a living.”