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Enigma Bookstore creates buzz in Astoria

Enigma Bookstore recently opened at 33-17 Crescent St. in Astoria. Photo courtesy Claire LaPlaca
TimesLedger Newspapers

Science-fiction, fantasy and mystery book lovers in Queens are in luck: Enigma Bookstore, a new, independent business in the community, is offering up an exciting variety of page turners for residents.

Co-owners Claire LaPlaca, 41, and Hugh Brammer, 42, hosted a soft opening for their business, at 33-17 Crescent St. in Astoria, July 19. The pair, who are engaged and live in Howard Beach, said they decided to launch Enigma not only to fulfill their dream of running a bookstore, but to have one specializing in sci-fi, fantasy and mystery novels — genres they have grown to love.

LaPlaca, a longtime director at an autism nonprofit in Astoria, and Brammer, a former assistant manager at Book Revue in Huntington, L.I., who now works in the legal field, said they are both avid readers and staunch supporters of local bookstores. They began to search in Queens for available space, they said, and eventually opted for Astoria because LaPlaca works in the area.

“When we met, one thing that connected us was our love of books,” LaPlaca said. “As we got older and thought about all the things we wanted to do, we realized we always wanted to own a bookstore. We were ready to throw caution to the wind and try for our dream.”

The store’s soft opening was a major success, they said, especially because Astoria is an active area with a high volume of foot traffic.

“We have had five to 10 people a day asking us, ‘What are you doing?’” LaPlaca said. “A young population has been moving in, artists, poets, people interested in a bookstore. People have been coming in.”

The couple said they plan on hosting a slew of events and activities, including reading groups for children, “geek” trivia nights and even spoken word events. The shop will also include a backyard garden for readers to lounge in and enjoy books.

What separates their store from chain stores such as Barnes & Noble, they explained, is their shop’s focus on specific genres and its relaxed, stress-free environment.

“Barnes & Noble and general bookstores are about selling books. We’re an adventure, an experience,” LaPlaca said. “We want you to browse, to attend activities, to connect with people.”

“Being a jack-of-all-trades makes you an expert in none,” Brammer said.

The store is home to a number of old, used and new books, and novels can range anywhere from 50 cents to $25 in price, they said. Brammer said the bookstore offers fair discounts on items, from 20 percent off new books to 15 percent off used books. They have books penned by numerous authors, including John Grisham, Suzanne Collins and J.K. Rowling.

With a growing following, a variety of novels and the store’s grand opening, which happened this past weekend, the hope, Brammer and LaPlaca said, is to solidify their business as a reputable specialty store and to eventually expand and open a second store that will focus on three other genres, one of which may be sports.

“We want people to come here and celebrate their inner geek,” Brammer said.

“People need to feel comfortable and sit and read,” LaPlaca said. “They have a place now they can call home. Bookstores in this economy may seem irrelevant. They’re not. People still crave them.”

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