Claire LaPlaca and her husband, Hugh Brammer, were just about to get ready to build a garden in the Enigma Bookstore’s — one of only two independent bookstores in western Queens — backyard before figuring out they would have to close down the store.
“When we realized that we had to close, probably my heart broke,” said LaPlaca. “Now we have to cut some of our dreams like the garden.”
LaPlaca with Brammer, her then-fiancÈ, started Enigma Bookstore — a niche bookstore for geek culture located at 33-17 Crescent St. in Astoria — less than a year ago, using their savings and insurance payments from damages to their home caused by Hurricane Sandy.
Overtime they’ve built a community within the neighborhood, becoming a space for largely geek-related events.
However, after disagreements with the landlord, they are planning to move and are asking for donations from the community to help with the relocation cost and to refer Queens spaces they might consider for the bookstore’s new home.
“It’s something a little bit more meaningful to me than ‘Oh, I just like having an independent bookstore,’” LaPlace said. “Having an independent bookstore in an area where I grew up is something that would be particularly meaningful.”
LaPlaca admits they decided to move as a result of a growing tense relationship with the landlord after not making rent payments on time earlier this year.
However, she argues it was mainly due to the harsh winter weather that made it tough for most local businesses to thrive and not a sign that the store was failing.
She said Enigma has been making money and would have easily been able to pay back the rent they owed.
“We’ve gotten people to cross over the Manhattan border for a bookstore and Long Island, which apparently you need a passport to come over from Manhattan or Long Island to Queens,” she said.
There has been an outpouring of support especially from many of the local writers who made the bookstore their home. From Italian-American poet Gil Fagiani to New York Times bestselling author David Mack.
Both have held events in the store and have donated to help it relocate nearby.
“I’ve loved being able to say, ‘I live in a neighborhood with an independent science-fiction book store.’ I very much hope that I’ll be able to go on saying so,” said Mack.
LaPlaca said she is moved by the support not only of donations, but of people offering to help move boxes or paint when they find their new place.
“It kind of filled me with more motivation. It wasn’t just my dream now that I’m fighting for,” she said. “I feel like it’s a whole bunch of people’s dream and that is just a totally different world now for me.”
Enigma Bookstore is set to close in mid-June. In the meantime the owners are looking for venues to hold their readings and writer events while they find a new place for the store.
To donate to the store’s campaign, visit gofundme.com/save-enigma-bookstore.