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Queens Chronicle

Fantasy, mystery bookshop to Astoria

Enigma Bookshop will make it two new written-word stores in Queens

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Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:03 am, Thu Jul 18, 2013.

A geek-focused bookstore plans an Astoria invasion.

Enigma Bookstore, a shop dedicated to mystery, fantasy and science fiction, hopes for a “soft” opening on July 13 or 14, but more realistically plans for next week, said co-founder Claire LaPlaca of her genre-specific store.

“We are celebrating geeks,” LaPlaca said. “We believe there is a little geek in everyone.”

LaPlaca, a speech pathologist, describes herself and her fiance, Hugh Brammer, a lawyer turned legal funding specialist and the other half of Enigma, as “huge nerds.”

They both spent their childhoods playing Dungeons & Dragons and other fantasy games, but bonded over their shared love of books.

“It’s always been both of our dreams,” said LaPlaca, who loves “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Illustrated Man” and anything by Elizabeth Peters.

During Hurricane Sandy the two Howard Beach residents lost a significant amount of their belongings.

Instead of recreating the life they had before, they decided to use the money to pursue their bookstore dream. They pulled together insurance payments, tax refunds, savings and lots of volunteered hours from family and friends to renovate the shop branded with a little green alien.

“We tried to take something that wasn’t so great and make it a stepping stone for our dream,” LaPlaca said.

Enigma will be the first bookstore opening in Queens for a long time, with Astoria Bookshop, offering all genres, opening shortly after in August. Seaburn Bookstore closed in December 2011.

“They say a rising tide floats all boats, but the tide is going out in this industry and fast,” said a sales associate from Heights of Gaming in Elmhurst, a fantasy hobby shop selling Magic the Gathering and other games, in an email, who worries about bookstores, albeit regular or fantasy-oriented, in this economy.

He did add hopefully that Barnes & Noble might add a game night to some locations and suggested comics as a healthy revenue stream.

The two independent shops will be relying on events to bring in shoppers while e-books and Amazon have a strong footing.

Enigma will host a slew of reading groups, including a Spanish group, hosted by LaPlaca’s colleagues. The couple also plans to host adult and teen “clue nights,” run like a scavenger hunt and mystery game leading back to the store, a trivia night at their neighbor Crescent Lounge with Enigma prizes, Magic the Gathering tournaments on the store’s soon-to-be installed large tables and monthly spoken word nights led by Woodside rapper Kea Davay.

“As a rapper I want to have diversity,” Davay said. “I want to reach out to everyone and have people relate to me.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity,” she said.

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