Bookworms: Grant was her dream, now she faces reality

Self-professed “book nerd” Jessica Stockton Bagnulo (second from left) was all smiles when she received a $15,000 grant from the Brooklyn Public Library last month, but now she’s facing the hard reality of opening a bookstore.

Book-lovers from Fort Greene and Clinton Hill to the South Slope and Ditmas Park are wooing, begging, in fact, beseeching the recent winner of a Brooklyn Public Library prize to enact her grant-winning bookshop proposal in their neighborhoods.

Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, 29, has found herself in an unexpected position ever since she won the “Power Up! Business Plan Competition,” a $15,000 award created to help small businesspeople make their dreams a reality.

And reality has come in the form of hundreds of e-mails and calls.

“[There’s been more requests] than I could easily count,” said Bagnulo. “Fort Greene has been very vocal. [But I’ve also heard] from Ditmas Park, Greenpoint, and a couple of people in South Park Slope.”

It’s easy to understand their enthusiasm, given that Bagnulo’s plan calls for a general-interest bookstore, a cafe and a wine bar. What could be better than reading Jonathan Lethem with a Cote du Rhone? Or checking your e-mail on free Wi-Fi while enjoying a bagel?

The larger goal is to avoid failing — like so many bookstores have this past year.

“[The ones in Park Slope that closed] were not necessarily welcoming spaces,” Bagnulo said. “Plus, rents in the Slope are higher.”

Bagnulo, 29, has worked in bookstores, so she knows what customers want. But so do her would-be customers.

“We desperately need a bookstore in our neighborhood, especially considering all the literary and creative types here,” Emily Takoudes, a HarperCollins editor, wrote to Bagnulo.

On Bagnulo’s blog, www. writtennerd.blogspost.com, another book-lover pleaded, “Please consider setting up your shop in Ditmas Park — there are so many book-lovers here and no bookstores!”

However will she decide?

“It will be a combination of finding a space that’s affordable — the profit margin in a bookstore is pretty thin, and it will need to have good walking traffic,” said Bagnulo. “I want to be in a neighborhood that needs a bookstore and can support a bookstore. Somewhere in between a really affluent neighborhood and the opposite of a very affluent neighborhood.”

Stay tuned.

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