Residents and passersby were invited into the store, which was to officially open to the public Wednesday, to sample free cookies and coffee from the cafe and browse the shelves with the sounds of violin duets of La Belle Musique playing in the background.
Ten percent of the night's proceeds will go to the Queens Council on the Arts for its Nations in Neighborhood Arts in Education program.
In a speech during the ribbon cutting, Queens Council Executive Director Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer praised the new store, at 176-60 Union Turnpike.
"I'm sure I am not alone in saying we are delighted to have this store as a part of the neighborhood," she said.
While the new staff greeted those entering, customers admired the myriad of books and beauty of the store.
"It's unbelievable!" Laslow said as she went through the doors. "That unmistakable new book smell, I've waited 30 years for this, you know."
Laslow has lived in Fresh Meadows for 40 years and said the opening will definitely add a boost to the neighborhood.
"We haven't had a bookstore here in so long," Laslow said. "This is so great for the community, St. John's University and the children."
The new store is the third in Queens but is by no means an ordinary Barnes & Noble. As people wandered through the shelves of books, they found an expanded section with specialty, foreign and rare magazines and book sections catered toward college students and residents of the area.
The two-story Barnes & Noble provides an escalator to the basement, which leads customers to the store's biggest pride, the music/DVD section, which is accompanied by a Barnes & Noble Jr. section.
The music section makes the Fresh Meadows store the first Barnes & Noble to feature more than 50,000 CDs and DVD titles accompanied by the RedDotNet system. RedDotNet allows customers to scan any CD title barcode and preview the songs with headphones, as well as search the Barnes & Noble online database for other titles.
"We also have an expanded section geared towards the cultures that we believe residents will strongly identify with," said store manager Diana Burns. "Although they already have their own bookstore, we also offer St. John's students the ability to order their textbooks through us."
Children accompanied by their parents ran through the store, a sight that some parents called "remarkable."
In addition to the "Jr." section, the store has a separate table for summer reading books most children are required to read during their vacation.
The new store was met with great anticipation and excitement from the customers inside.
"It's a nice improvement for the area," said Tom Wilson, a 10-year Fresh Meadows resident. "Obviously from the turnout, a lot of people were looking forward to it."
Laslow said she looks forward to returning to the store in her spare time and believes the new store will do nothing but thrive.
"If tonight is indicative of the future," Laslow said, "this store will be an absolute success."
Reach intern Mallory Simon by e-mail at news@times
©2004 Community News Group
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