An Interview with Noëlle Santos
What is The Lit Bar and your role in it?
The Lit. Bar will soon be the only bookstore in the Bronx. It will also feature a wine bar. I am the HBIC: Head Bookseller In Charge.
What were you doing before working on this project?
I am still working full-time as a Human Resources & Payroll Director. I work in the IT industry.
What do you think a space like The Lit Bar would bring to the community?
My ultimate goal are to spread book culture in the Bronx. Creating safe spaces are especially important in this political climate. Beyond that, I aim to fight against the negative stigmas attached to my borough and secure the investments my thriving community deserves--even if that means we have to do it ourselves.
What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about the Bronx? Why do you think it's so widely misunderstood?
We're still stigmatized by the era of white-flight and arson fires of the 70's and the media oftentimes perpetuates that narrative. We still have a lot of work to do here, but we have thriving communities, 10 colleges, and the city's most amazing talent is cultivated here. We are so much more than just the Bronx Zoo, Botanical Garden, and Yankee Stadium... and the Bronx reads!
What has surprised you most in the process of making this book store/wine bar/community space happen?
I had no idea I would become a public figure. I thought owning a bookstore would be an introvert's dream.
What community spaces/movements have inspired you?
I really admire Word Up Community Bookshop in Washington Heights. It's a great example of how businesses should reflect the communities they operate in and how neighborhood transplants can be a part of that.
What is your #1 strength that has contributed to your success?
My ability to fall asleep at any time, anywhere.
What keeps you happy + emotionally healthy?
Reading. My boyfriend, Paul.
To what women would you most like to show The Lit Bar?
Women from the Bronx. I hope to inspire other local entrepreneurs to no longer measure our success by how far we can get away from here, but stay and build businesses that are for us and by us.
Who is your favorite author? Whose work do you reread the most?
It depends on which week you ask me. My favorite genre is non-fiction, the type of books where people pour a lifetime of personal stories or research into one masterpiece.
What advice do you have for someone thinking about starting their own business?
Don't. Just kidding, but I'm half serious. You have to be extremely self-aware to be an entrepreneur. There's nothing glamorous about this lifestlye no matter what Instagram tells you. To reap the benefits (there are many) you must be honest about who you are and only play to your strengths.
What women inspire you most?
Beyoncé is my liiife. When I come down to earth, it's Cara Alwill Leyba with her bravery. She left an executive role at MTV to pursue her passion for guiding women to live their best lives full-time. Along the way, I've witnessed her reinvent her brand a few times, unapologetic ally. On the surface, we have nothing in common (I hate pink, lol), but I've been absorbing her content for years and she's pushed me through a lot of fear.
What do you hope for in the future of your community? What do you hope to see change in this country?
I want to see the Bronx get the same level (not types) of investment that we've seen in other boroughs.
I hope people of this country one day realize that we are all more alike than we are different.
Help me show the world what many fail to see--that the Bronx is no longer burning... except with desire to read at www.igg.me/at/thelitbar.