Before the pandemic, the very existence of independent bookstores — and books in general — was in jeopardy. When COVID hit, shipping delays and lockdowns seemed to herald the end of bookstores.
Yet, like an elaborate plot twist, the pandemic has instead ushered in a resurgence of bookstore love. Book sales skyrocketed and people started shopping locally again. “During COVID, the way we read, consume and live has changed,” said Eileen Dengler, executive director of the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA), a nonprofit dedicated to supporting bookstores in the region.
Membership has boomed over the past two years, and while some bookstores have closed, such as Huntington’s popular Book Revue, a new crop of bookstores is bringing new life to many of the island’s small towns.
“It’s very difficult to own a bookstore,” Dengler said. “But it’s also absolutely magical.”
Here are four new bookstores to check out on the island:
17 Audrey Street, Oyster Bay
When former MP Steve Israel first saw the space where his store now stands, Main Street in Oyster Bay was full of vacancies. When he returned a few months later to sign the lease, it was the last available place in town. “If there’s a silver lining to this pandemic,” Israel said, “it’s that the small town of Main Streets is alive again.”
Opening in November, Theodore’s is named after Oyster Bay’s most famous resident, former President Theodore Roosevelt, and is known for a selection of presidential biographies and political non-fiction. The store’s collection of contemporary literature is equally impressive: best-selling novels, memoirs and classics can be found, and there’s a kids’ section at the back with kid-sized seating and plush teddy bears. “My grandson thinks it all belongs to him,” Israel said.
The store hosts book clubs, children’s activities and writers’ events, such as actor Ralph Macchio’s event tied to his memoir at the Madison Theater in Rockville Center on Oct. 17.
Many former Book Revue workers have found refuge here, and Israel, a novelist, often works on the shelves. “Even in my days in Congress,” Israel said, “books were my true love.”
469 East Street
Jocelyn Maningo Kaleita, a second-generation librarian from East Morrissey, has dreamed of owning a bookstore for many years. When the owner of the seaside restaurant Jerry and the Mermaid recommended the restaurant next door, Kaleita knew it was perfect. A corridor connects the restaurant and the bookstore, and customers looking for a bathroom sometimes enter the study by accident. “Someone popped up the other day and was surprised,” Caletta said. “He said it felt like walking into Narnia!”
In addition to books for children and adults, the store also has a section featuring books and books, and she plans to support self-published authors from nearby towns. “I envisioned the store to be as local as possible,” Kaleita said.
Dogeared Bard’s Bookshop
250 Lackfield Road.
For more than a decade, the poet and small news publisher James Wagner has conducted poetry readings and book launches across the island. Many cafes and event venues hosting these events have closed during the pandemic. “For a long time, I’ve wanted a place, a permanent place for the poet to call himself,” said Northport resident Wagner. “Half the store is empty during COVID. I found this place and fell in love.”
The store’s name was inspired by Wagner’s poetic group The Bards, as well as a bookstore called The Dogeared that was once located in town. Wagner’s store sells second-hand and vintage books, from science fiction and fantasy to mystery and memoir, and there are tables dedicated to local poets. The former nail salon also features a stage for poetry readings and open-mic nights.
In October, the store celebrates its one-year anniversary. “We’re planning a big week-long sale,” Wagner said. “We’re ready to celebrate!”
187 Huntington Park Avenue (planned to move to 204 New York Avenue in November)
When the Huntington’s Book Revue, where Mallory Braun had been working for five years, closed last summer, no one could have imagined the fairytale ending: After leading a wildly successful Kickstarter-backed effort, Blau En found a spot not far from the hotel to book Revue for her new store, The Next Chapter.
Braun hopes to have the new location operational by November. During September, she ran a pop-up bookstore in a cabin in Huntington Harbor. Braun plans to continue pop-ups on the island after The Next Chapter’s permanent home opens.
“Book Revue has been around for 44 years and has left a huge chasm in Long Island’s bookstore landscape. People have been working from home for a few years and are realizing the importance of participating in their community,” Braun said. “And there’s no better place to find community than your local bookstore.”