For one Bayside bookstore, helping the staff is just as important as satisfying the customer.
Turn the Page Again, located at 39-15A Bell Blvd., is a used bookstore operated by Transitional Services, a Whitestone non-profit that helps people with primary psychiatric diagnoses get accustomed to reentering the workforce.
“We train people in a period of six to nine months and help them get experience in a retail environment,” said Larry Grubler, CEO of Transitional Services. “Then, we help them to find a job in the real world. This is a rehab program.”
The bookstore opened in February 2010 and Grubler said it has been a struggle to get enough city and state funding that would allow it to remain open.
But he said the response from Bayside residents has been very positive.
“I’m really excited about the community spirit of it,” he said. “I’ve been approached by other community board to open similar stores in their neighborhoods. We are trying to decrease the stigma of mental illness.”
Currently, the store provides jobs for 10 workers between the ages of 18 and 64 years.
Elle Fliegel, the store’s manager, said the employees not only stock books, but also assist with promotion and advertising.
Each month, they come up with sales, such as this month’s two-for-three sale on history and nonfiction books.
“We help with confidence, social skills and being back on the workforce,” Fliegel said. “We train them on the register and customer service.”
Employees hail from all over Queens, including Jamaica and Corona, but also from Long Island.
Originally, a majority of the store’s books were provided by the Queens Public Library, but now most of them are donated by local residents.
Fliegel said the store has a dedicated following in the local community.
“We have people who come in here every morning,” she said. “We have teachers come in and stock up and other people who come in on their lunch hour. We see many of the same faces day in and day out.”
Turn the Page Again’s sections include modern and classic fiction, nonfiction, science fiction, mystery, politics, cookbooks, history, children’s books and works in foreign languages.
Assistant Manager Nina Cassius began her work at the store as an employee.
“I love books and reading and everyone in the neighborhood is great,” she said. “It’s a very positive atmosphere. People look at us like we’re people. I’ve never come across anyone who has stigmatized us.”
Although the store does not give cash for used books, they will give store credit to customers. All of the store’s books are $5 or less and many of its tomes are given away for free.
Turn the Page Again is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, call 718-767-2341.