As a child, I was an avid bookworm. I grew up surrounded by books. My father had several shelves in our family library that were were always filled with books on law, classic literature, history, philosophy and spirituality, encyclopedias (hey, it was still the ’90s, pre-Wikipedia era), best-selling novels, as well as miscellaneous guide books and travel books.
Rather than buying us the latest toys or video games, my parents had always encouraged us to read. My father would always shower my younger sisters and me with books as gifts when we were younger for Christmas, our birthdays, or just because there happened to be a sale at a used bookshop my father had discovered on his way home. Whenever my mother would limit our time with the television, the only other option I had to entertain myself was to read a novel or to flip through articles in the encyclopedia until I moved on to the next letter/volume. My love for reading and my fondness for books also influenced my preferences in Disney princesses. The most bookish of all those fairytale heroines was, of course, Belle. As a four-year-old, I used to pretend that I was Belle and that Ridgewood, Queens, New York was the “Little Town” being referenced in the 1991 classic animated movie.
My family has been living in this neighborhood for about twenty-two years. It was hard to come by good books within the neighborhood, as there weren’t any bookstores (that my father or myself knew of) around at the time. If you wanted to purchase a new book, you would have had to make the trip to Barnes & Noble, The Strand, or Borders (prior to its bankruptcy), and these locations were usually in Manhattan. As a child, I also used to buy books from the annual Scholastic Book Fair hosted at St. Aloysius School (the parochial school where I used to attend elementary and junior high school, which used to stand at 360 Seneca Avenue, prior to closing its doors in 2009 and its demolition in 2013). I used to spend most of the savings in my coin bank to purchase new YA novels and journals. I had often wished that there were more places in Ridgewood to find books aside from school and the local branch of the Queens Library. Throughout my childhood, I would always wonder, When will a bookstore open in Ridgewood?
Finally, now that I’m in my mid-twenties, it’s nice to know that there is now such a haven for bookworms in my neighborhood, where I can select my next great literary adventure.
Since its grand opening in December 2014, Topos Bookstore & Cafe has become a welcome establishment in the neighborhood, where you can stroll in and browse through the stacks of classic literature, economics, philosophy, film, and music books. As you enter the bookstore and walk through the aisles, you start to feel that these books have already been someplace, been someone’s travel companion on a plane trip or a subway ride, and somehow made their way here, to this corner shop on Woodward and Putnam Avenues.
My father and I decided to spend some time quality father-daughter time together by taking a stroll to Topos to check out the titles and the menu. We always had this tradition of checking out bargain-priced bookshops to see if we can find any literary treasures stacked amongst the shelves. Although the bookstore space was relatively small, it still managed to possess a cozy, bright, and airy ambiance with plenty of natural light streaming in from its wide spacious shop windows. The ample lighting allows visitors to take their time as they peruse the paperbacks and dime novels on the shelves.
You’ll see small display tables and rows of tall shelves that housed some selections of classic fiction, dramatic plays, philosophy, economics, music, religion and spirituality, psychology, history, anthropology, biographies, and anthologies of essays. You can also find some reference books, travel guides, and a few select works written in French and Spanish for sale among the stacks. Even if you have not yet found a book you would like to read on your first visit, you can always come back anytime and check out if they have a new collection of used books.
If you’re hungry or in need of a quick pick-me-up, you can find your way to the cafe counter at the back of the store and select your choice of beverage from the menu hanging overhead. The menu includes coffee (just $2.00), cafe au lait, espresso, cappuccino, latte, hot chocolate, and different varieties of tea. Sometimes there are also cookies and small pastries being served as well. The cups and plates also had their own whimsical personality, designed and hand-crafted by bettyceramix specifically for Topos.
Once you’ve made your reading selection, you can also sit down at one of the tables and enjoy a cup of coffee or a pastry while reading one of Ibsen’s plays or typing out the outlines for an upcoming project. The ambiance is quiet enough for you to get some work done, and the chairs and benches are comfortable enough to entice you to sit and stay for a while. I myself was tempted to get another cup of coffee while typing out this particular review on my device while my father read his newly discovered book on the philosophical works of Blaise Pascal.
Every once in a while there are also readings and community events going on at the bookstore. Academics, artists, and locals alike come together during these gatherings to share their passions for the written word and to exchange ideas. Feel free to check out the bookstore’s Facebook page for updates and detailed information on upcoming events.
So if you ever find yourself wondering where to go and what to do in Ridgewood, try taking a stroll and head towards Topos Bookstore & Cafe.