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Magic on Montague: Books Are Magic, beloved indie bookstore, to open second location in Brooklyn Heights

new books are magic store with paper on montague street
Books Are Magic is coming to Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights this October, the store’s owners announced on Tuesday.
Photo by Mike Fusco-Straub

Books Are Magic, the beloved indie bookstore nestled on the corner of Smith and Butler streets in Cobble Hill is opening a second location in Brooklyn Heights this fall, its owners announced on Tuesday.

“The secret is OUT! We’ve been dying to tell you about our second location, and we just couldn’t hold it in anymore,” the shop’s owners, Emma Straub and Michael Fusco-Straub wrote in an Instagram post. “Books Are Magic is coming to Montague Street, tell everyone.”

staff inside new books are magic location
The owners and staff of Books Are Magic inside the future site of the bookstore’s second location at the corner of Montague and Henry streets in Brooklyn Heights. Photo by Julia DeVarti

The cozy shop, with its iconic black-and-pink mural wall facing Butler Street, opened in 2017 after two nearby indie booksellers — BookCourt and Community Bookstore — closed permanently. Over the last six years, the business has become a fixture in the neighborhood, hosting events for the borough’s smallest bookworms and signings for authors from near and far and standing firm in an era where independent bookstores are struggling to thrive.

Developers in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and even Los Angeles reached out to Books Are Magic to see if they were interested in expanding almost immediately after the store opened, said Nick Buzanski, the shop’s general manager and bookseller. But the owners were laser-focused on the store they already had, and weren’t interested in branching out.

“We had a few people approach us, including the Brooklyn Heights Association, that they had done a survey and that the main people said they wanted as they’re trying to rebuild Montague Street was a bookstore,” Buzanski said. 

Straub and her family spend a lot of time in that neighborhood, he explained, and Books Are Magic holds events at St. Ann’s Church & The Holy Trinity Church on Montague Street fairly regularly, Buzanski explained, so Brooklyn Heights felt like a natural extension of the store’s territory.

“It made sense that if anybody was going to open up a bookstore it was going to be us, but we were really looking for a space that felt like ‘us,'” he said. “So, over the last year, year-and-a-half, we looked at some places but the rents were very high, there’s a lot of stuff where you’d have to go upstairs or downstairs, which wasn’t very functional for us. It wasn’t until we looked at this location that we walked in and and were kind of like …. ‘Well, this is kind of perfect.'”

interior of books are magic on smith street
The interior of Books Are Magic’s first location on Smith Street, where staff work closely to curate the selection of books to their customers and booksellers. Finding a new space that met the shop’s exact specifications was very important to the staff and owners. Photo by Michael Chin

Construction is ongoing, but the store is slated to open around Halloween, Buzanski said, if all goes well. The relatively small, one-floor space was just what the team was looking for for Books Are Magic’s second location.

“We never wanted to open, like, a huge bookstore,” Buzanski said. “We want to keep it small but mighty, so we can really make sure that everything is curated the way we want, we’re really intentional in what we do and how we do it.”

Straub, Buzanski, and a few other supervisors work together with booksellers to carefully select the selection of books available in the Smith Street shop, though anything can be special ordered if a customer is looking for a particular book.

“We really try as a team, and we really do take a lot of input from our booksellers and what they’re passionate about, and that passion, I think, comes through the selection of what we’re excited to sell, and I think that really is what then introduces customers to really fun and exciting books.”

Of course, the new location, sandwiched between Cadman Plaza Park and the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, will host some of Books Are Magic’s famous events — but probably not until the spring, to give the staff a chance to settle into new rhythms at the store, Buzanski said. And, for all the book-lovers eager to work in one of the borough’s best-known bookstores, the team will be expanding bit by bit as October approaches. New positions will be posted on the store’s “About” page, and Buzanski said each new posting tends to attract hundreds of applicants from “all over the world.” Employees will probably work in both locations to start, he said, to make it feel like one big team.

books are magic owners outside new location on montague streets
Books Are Magic owners Mike Fusco-Straub and Emma Straub outside the store’s new location on Montague Street. Brooklyn Heights feels like an extension of their neighborhood and a natural place for the store’s first and only expansion, explained store manager Nick Buzanski,Photo by Aatia Davidson

“Mike and Emma didn’t really, necessarily want to open another location, because this store is so important and good to them,” Buzanksi said. “But they really feel like that neighborhood is part of our neighborhood, so we really wanted to bring Books Are Magic to Brooklyn Heights, specifically, because it feels like us.”

Straub, Fusco-Straub, and the Books Are Magic staff reiterated that they don’t intend to keep on growing in press release on Wednesday.

“Expect: our same brilliant, friendly staff, our handpicked book selection, our ever-rotating merch selection, and some new surprises of its very own,” the team said in a statement. “And yes — before you even ask — this is it. The family is complete. No more! Just these two.”

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