Well-used and well-loved former bookstore location
(excerpted from Susan Weimans essay, "My Barnes & Noble," with permission from the author)
My Barnes and Noble:
I, along with many others, am saddened by the closing of B&N at Lincoln Triangle. The store opened on October 20, 1995, and closed on January 2, 2011. B&N at 66th Street was a community that hosted literary and group readings, theatre and musical events, and sponsored fundraisers for schools. The cafe was always packed with students, tutors, couples, young and old, families, older men hitting on younger women, artists, scrabble players, the homeless, an occasional pet, teenagers making out, book lovers, and people like me, who did not want to go home.
As if in their own living rooms, cafe customers rearranged the tables and chairs so they were no longer in rows, but scattered everywhere. Sometimes, I could find myself in the middle of a lovers quarrel, or in a group of young women practicing Gregorian chants. Once, while chatting with a friend, an older man interrupted our "private" conversation to share anecdotes about his wifes hot flashes.
For me, B&N was a transition from the West Side to my home in Astoria. A large, well-lit space to read books, flip through art and bead magazines, chat, write, hang out, call friends, and make jewelry. One of my friends referred to it as "my office," another called it "my salon."
The brown-haired reader arrived every evening, grabbed a stack of books, bought a coffee, put on her headset, and read until midnight.
The grumpy old Westside hipster with the worn black leather jacket and the grey ponytail showed up every Sunday to read the New York Times.
The "couple" crisscrossed the room until they landed their favorite seats in the back of the cafe.
The well-dressed woman with the pale face and shock of red hair always looked as if she were going to faint.
The Thursday night Bible Study group, a large gathering of men and women met to read and discuss the New Testament out loud. One evening, as I sat down, a man approached me and asked for my table. "This is my favorite table," I protested. He persisted, but I would not leave. Before I knew it, he had slammed three tables together and slid the end one flush with mine.
They started to close the store on Sunday at 10pm, and then weekday evenings at 11. One night, I noticed the staff had placed round white stickers on some of the merchandise. Two days later, stationary, diaries, bookmarks, notepads, games and selected books were 40, then 50% off. I didnt have any money, but I wanted to buy everything.
I continued combing the store. It was depressing, and I had to ask myself what I was doing there. The store began to look emaciated. The dark wood showed through the tables and bookcases. The childrens department had almost disappeared.
At the end of November, I received an email stating that the store would close on January 2nd instead of the 31st. I was in a panic. Life as I knew it was coming to an end.
On Sunday, January 2, 2011, I entered B&N at 5:30pm. The cafe was packed. I couldnt get a decent seat, and recognized no one. As usual, I ordered an almost biscotti and a bottle of Fiji water. I was prepared to wait. Maybe at the final hour, thered be a party or a protest. Perhaps cafe customers and employees would cry, embrace, unite. Maybe theyd reconsider, and the store wouldnt close after all. Mocha lattes and chocolate chunk cookies would flow.
At 6:45pm, I spoke to a couple of employees. The second fellow thought I was from the press and angrily refused to speak. I tried to appease him, but that was the final blow.
I went back to the cafe, retrieved my coat and left the store.
40 of the 100 employees were placed at other B&N locations.
The couple migrated to the B&N on East 86th Street.
The Bible Study group infiltrated the B&N at Union Square.
The grumpy old Westside hipster has not yet appeared.
I imagine that the brown-haired reader remains in the cafe.
As for me, I finally went home.
Around midnight, Saturday, January 29th, I walked past B&N on my way to the subway, and noticed that someone had taped a white piece of legal size paper to the store window. On it were over 25 farewell wishes: "We miss you." "Please come back to our neighborhood." "My high school memories are in this store!" "Life isnt the same without you." "Thank you for everything." "Youll be back!" And in big red letters, "We wont forget. We love you!"