Two years later, but grant winner finally opens her bookshop

for The Brooklyn Paper
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From winning a grant from the Brooklyn Public Library, to scouting locations and creating neighborhood buzz, the story of Greenlight Bookstore has been a page turner. Now, after more than two years, the independent bookseller will finally open on Saturday in the heart of Fort Greene.

Jessica Stockton Bagnulo’s dream of opening a bookstore — yes, some people still have that dream, apparently — began with a $15,000 grant from the library system in 2007, and has finally culminated in a bricks-and-mortar location on busy Fulton Street called Greenlight Bookstore.

Her location — in one of the borough’s most literary communities, close to the Brooklyn Academy of Music and far from any real competition, and with 10,000 titles in stock — could help her and co-owner Rebecca Fitting defy the dour trend in bookstores.

On one side of the large airy space at the busy corner of S. Portland Avenue there will be a section dedicated to the performing arts — fitting for a store that’s just five blocks from the BAM. A long, sunlit set of shelves at the front of the store will be dedicated to local authors, a group that has shown overwhelming support for the new independent store.

One of them, Brooklyn literary ace Jonathan Lethem, called the store personally to request a reading for his newest novel, “Chronic City” (see interview in GO Brooklyn this week) — before Bagnulo and her crew even began shelving.

The store’s fall roster is already filling with events like the Lethem reading, a panel of writers from the New York Review of Books on Nov. 18 and blogger/author pairings later in the month. It’s likely that book lovers will turn out in droves at such gatherings, but will they open their wallets?

Bagnulo is optimistic.

“In tough economic times, a book is a good small investment for anyone,” she said.

At least one person is interested in the bookstore’s opening. On Tuesday, while Bagnulo interrupted her shelve stocking to answer questions from a reporter, a stubbly man gazed longingly through the front window and asked, “Are you guys hiring?”

An opening party will be held on Oct. 24 featuring events for kids at 10 am and an adults-only party at 7 pm at Greenlight Bookstore [686 Fulton St. at S. Portland Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 246-0200]. For info, visit

Updated 5:15 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

gimme from fort greene says:
yawn, will still shop online, love the discounts
Oct. 14, 2009, Noon
sara from fort greene says:
Have been walking by and peering in the windows on a weekly basis. The place looks beautiful & I can't wait to get in there and start browsing. It's wonderful that Fort Greene will finally have a general-interest bookstore, one that can reflect and serve all the residents of the neighborhood. The opening of the store is a real milestone.
Oct. 15, 2009, 8:11 am
Bill Lewis from Souhtern Vermont says:
As a veteran bookseller in an independent bookstore I've faced it all firsthand: chain stores, on-line marketing, e-readers, etc. And now a genuine, old fashioned, recession. The demise of independent bookstores is a well chronicled story and for those that remain there continues a daily struggle to survive. But for those stores that "do it right" there are genuine reasons to be hopeful, if not optimistic. The successful independent bookstore does multiple things that, put simply, enrich their communities. Real service from real people that truly love books is the starting point. Offering an actual place for people to gather that provides experiences both stimulating and peaceful, interesting and reassuring, welcoming and genuine is what the good independent bookstores do. In an age of declining authenticity there seems to be a growing awareness that the decline is surely a very harmful thing. Good books, good booksellers, and good bookshops can (and do) beat back the aforementioned every day. I speak firsthand. Good luck to Jessica and Rebecca. They made a good choice for their store's name. "Greenlight" properly suggests the magic that can happen in a genuine bookstore. Discover (or re-discover) for yourself.
Oct. 15, 2009, 9:30 am
rowan from Greenpoint says:
online might give you discounts but it cannot replace the simple pleasure of browsing through a book store, chatting with the staff and enjoying events put on by the store. i patronize the public library more often than not but when i want to spend money on books, i'd prefer to give that money to a local book store. plus another reason to visit my former neighborhood. i will definitely come by and peek in.

p.s. my local book store, Word, does offer discounts. along with charming conversation. does amazon do that?
Oct. 15, 2009, 10:10 am
b from carroll gardens says:
wish greenlight was coming to MY neighborhood! Jessica & Becca are pros and they are already doing this right. I wish them every success and can't wait to shop there!
Oct. 15, 2009, 10:23 am
Arnold A. Hook from Bed-Sty says:
Great location! I was in Broklyn last weekend visiting my mother. Happened to be dinning at the Smoke Pit and my friend pointed your bookstore out. Next time I come to Brooklyn I will definitely stop in. The bookstore is in downtown Brooklyn, besides Barnes & Noble, was overdue. Good luck!
June 20, 2011, 1:10 pm

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