8 THE QUEENS COURIER • MAY 17, 2018 FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM
Bayside bookstore gives people a second chance
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BY SUZANNE MONTEVERDI
firstname.lastname@example.org / @smont76
Among the row of restaurants, salons
and convenience stores along Bell
Boulevard, it is easy to miss Turn the
Page Again, a used bookstore. But the little
Bayside shop is making a big diff erence
in the lives of its workers.
Th e store is operated by Transitional
Services for New York (TSINY), an organization
that provides rehabilitative,
housing, vocational and other services to
people living with a mental illness. About
18 years ago, TSINY approached the city
to open an affi rmative business for people
who have had a psychiatric diagnosis.
Th e goal was to rehabilitate and train
these individuals in order for them to successfully
move on and get a job, according
to CEO Larry Grubler.
“A lot of people came to us and they’ve
never had a job before,” Grubler told Th e
Courier. “Th ere’s a misconception about
people’s intellectual ability if you have a
mental health disability. People are smart.
Th ey can work the register. Th ey can learn
those skills, but they’ve never had the
Th e organization opened Arts and
Craft s Cafe in Jamaica. Th e business was
successful, Grubler said, but he realized a
food service model was diffi cult to sustain.
Further, workers were staying at the cafe
and not moving on, thus not meeting its
goal to provide transitional employment.
“We said, ‘Okay, this is great, but it’s
not getting people to transition and move
on,’” he said.
Grubler, a Bayside resident, approached
the city with a new model and saw an
opportunity in a small local storefront on
Bell Boulevard. Turn the Page Again was
opened in 2010, with Grubler and his wife
supplying books from their personal collection
to get the business on its feet.
Today, books are sourced from the
Queens Borough Public Library system
and donations from local residents and
are available for purchase for $1 to $5
At the shop, individuals over the age
of 18 from areas around New York City
work at the bookstore for six to nine
months and learn valuable employment
skills, including punctuality, customer
service and how to interact with a supervisor.
Th e employees are then off ered services
by a job developer, who helps them
set realistic career goals, write a resume
and move on to another job.
When the bookstore was fi rst established,
Grubler made regular visits.
However, he quickly came to a realization:
the workers were “more than capable”
of running the shop.
“Aft er we opened, I became less and less
involved,” he said. “Th ey open and close.
Th ey do the banking. Th ey came up with
a program for kids in the neighborhood
where, if you came with a ‘B’ or better on
your report card, you come in to get a free
book … Th ey took a business model — I
guess I came up with the concept — but
they took it and ran with it.”
When the group decided to add a small
cafe area to the shop to off er customers
coff ee and cake, Grubler realized workers
handling the food needed to be certifi ed
by the city. Th is addition wound up having
a valuable impact.
“An added benefi t is that skill then gets
transferred to the next level of employment.
Th ey can put that on their resume,”
the CEO said. “Some people have gotten
hired by restaurants and movie theaters
because they could say, ‘I already have
that certifi cate.’”
Workers also took on the store’s marketing,
coming up with monthly specials
and organizing programming for children
Th ose who have worked at Turn the
Page Again have moved on to a number
of new opportunities over the years. Some
moved on to achieve their GED or study
in higher education, while others gained
employment in the pharmacy, retail and
In recent years, Grubler has been
approached by other Queens Community
Boards who want to see the organization
bring a similar affi rmative business to
their community. Th is is a dream Grubler
hopes can become reality.
“Th is really does help to break the stigma
of mental illness,” he said. “When
somebody comes and says, ‘We want
your people here’: that doesn’t happen in
Th e biggest and only challenge, he said,
“Th e store will never be self-supporting,”
Grubler said. “We’ll never sell as
many books as we need to even pay the
Th e store is granted annual funding
by the city’s Department of Health and
Mental Hygiene and New York state for
its operations. However, TSINY is actively
seeking funds to continue and expand
its affi rmative business program.
Th is summer, the bookstore will join
a national movement and participate in
PBS’ “Th e Great American Read,” an
eight-part television series and campaign
designed to inspire Americans to read,
vote and share their personal connections
to titles on a top 100 list, as selected
through a national survey.
Hosted by Meredith Vieira, the series
will feature interviews with notables
including George R.R. Martin, Lauren
Graham and Seth Meyers and begins on
May 22 at 8 p.m. Th e Bayside bookstore
will off er books, programming and other
opportunities in coordination with the
Turn the Page Again is located at 39-15
Bell Blvd. and can be reached at 718-767-
2341. Visit the shop’s website at www.
turnthepageagain.com for updates.
Photos by Suzanne Monteverdi/QNS
Employees at Turn the Page Again