Since posting the Sleepy Hollow Bookshop sign in the window of 95 Beekman Ave., founder Leah Bloom has seen a lot of excitement from neighbors, tacked on with the same eager question: When are you going to open? Now, after a long wait through renovations, Westchester’s newest indie bookstore’s doors are welcoming young readers – and everyone else who loves a good book.
The shop specializes in titles for children, from board books up through middle grade and young adult. The choice to focus specifically on books for kids was a point of passion for Bloom, along with some business savvy. “For me, if I had tried to do too many things all at once, I couldn’t have done any of them very well in a small space. So, I thought, here’s something I love – I love getting books into kids’ hands,” she told River Journal. “In a store that’s not this massive space, I can actually do that very well, and be able to provide recommendations to people. It will be a different experience from a massive store or buying books online.”
Part of that experience for Bloom lies in her vision of the shop, a place where kids can be kids. “When my boys were little, I wished there was somewhere we could walk to, where inside they could be kids, pull something off the shelf, and I wouldn’t feel like ‘oh my god they’re breaking stuff’” she said. “Where I could set them free a little bit, and it wouldn’t hurt to have a cup of coffee while doing that.”
Bloom’s background in books started at SUNY Purchase, where she was a librarian for over a decade. She’s loved reading since childhood, when she remembers curling up in a hideously cozy chair to read Judy Blume books and the Nancy Drew Case Files series. Her idea for the shop germinated over the years, but she became more serious as her kids grew older. By 2019 she was even searching for commercial properties but put on the brakes during the pandemic. “When things let up a little with Covid, I started looking, and then I was able to find this space,” she said, “and then it really happened. I don’t think I believed it for a while, but everything fell in place. It’s been really exciting.”
While waiting to open the store’s doors, Bloom has had successful run-in booths at Sleepy Hollow’s October street fair and block party. Under a tent with the banner for the shop, kids huddled around tables filled with Halloween-themed books, while parents picked up nostalgic titles, like It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. She appreciates how children’s books build a bridge over generations, “something you can share with your kids, and both enjoy together that doesn’t involve a screen. Which is hard to find now – things we all enjoy that doesn’t involve a screen.”
As the shop first opens its doors, the coffee and pastry service will follow soon after, along with community events Bloom is brewing up. “I’m excited about bringing in authors and having readings, and illustrators drawing with kids. But I’d also like to do things with small groups of kids, community groups. I want to do drop-in things, just make it a place where people want to go for something interesting and run into people they know, kids they go to school with.”