Nestled in a beautiful setting in Kew Gardens, New York you’ll find Kew & Willow Bookstore. Opened in October 2017, owners Vina Castillo and Holly Nikodem have created a picturesque setting cozy with books and gifts that answered a call for booklovers in their community.
“We decided to open our shop after Queens was left with only one non-specialty bookstore to serve the whole borough with 2.2 million people,” the owners said. “Barnes & Noble closed all of their stores in Queens, one of which we used to work at (and where we met). After raising funds through Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform, we were able to reach our goal and open our doors with the help of the community.”
When asked to describe the store, the women stressed the importance of creating an environment that was safe, friendly, welcoming and honoring of those who sponsored this venture.
“Our store is 700 sq feet; we are a general purpose bookstore that highlights diverse, local, and bestselling titles in addition to bookish extras including journals, tote bags and even facemasks,” they said. “The shop is made even cozier with our working fireplace and a beautifully painted mural with the names of children whose parents donated to our crowdfunding.”
Add to the unique aspect that this is a bookstore built by their community and those who love books, their team stands out.
“Most every independent bookstore highlights local authors and builds relationships with their community, so it’s really the team at each that sets them apart,” the owners explained. “That, and we have several pieces of art by local Queens artists on display!”
But like every brick and mortar, they’ve faced their share of challenges in 2020. Dealing with the pandemic and shutdowns pushed them to be re-imagine how they could creatively run their business and connect with the customers that need them. They already had in place an interactive website that invited customers to place online orders for shipping, but for all of those in Queens, they added porch delivery and curbside pick-up. Thankfully, their doors have re-opened but to limited capacity and by appointment, as the owners are strict about ensuring safety for both their customers and their team.
When asked about what they love best about their stores, they cited their customers, community and the unique offerings they handpick with their clientele in mind.
“We love curating our shelves with titles we feel passionate about and that we hope will reach a broader audience,” they said. “Our customers are definitely our favorite part of owning a store, we love connecting with them and bonding over books. The friendships we have created are priceless and watching children light up and get excited for books is so heartwarming.”
They also host numerous author events, book clubs, open mic, workshops, and game nights. Since the pandemic, all of their events are now virtual, but will continue in a hybrid fashion when things begin to normalize. And when we’re all back full swing, make note that this unique bookstore also welcomes the non-traditional customer. To clarify, both women are dog lovers and encourage canine visitors.
“We’re always excited to meet your dog,” they added.
As you can see from the pictures, this is a bookstore worth visiting the next time you’re in New York. But please don’t wait until you can stop by in person. Give them a call and jump on their website. Vina and Holly welcome customers far and wide and want to help you find just the right book, gift or piece of art, that will warm your heart and home.
Check out this incredible venture and support them on their website and in person at
8163 Lefferts Blvd, Kew Gardens, NY 11415 ~ (718) 441-0009
Image Courtesy of Kew and Willow