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Latanya DeVaughn has big plans for how she wants the finished version of her mobile bookstore to look. It still needs some work, which she said should have been completed by now. DeVaughn said the community has been waiting too.
“Where’s the bus? Where’s the bus? Because people invested in this concept. And I feel so bad,” said DeVaughn.
She got the idea to start Bronx Bound Books, a bookstore on wheels, because the borough has very few book shops and she could not afford to open a traditional brick and mortar store.
After getting a $20,000 grant from Lowe’s Home Improvement, she bought a bus, then held multiple book drives and raised more than $7,000 in community donations to buy new and collect used books. After searching for companies to help with this unique project, she settled on Ortega Upholstery in the West Farms neighborhood, and dropped the vehicle off mid-May.
“They told me originally that this project could take anywhere from two-to-four weeks depending on when the material came in,” DeVaughn said.
Fast forward to August, and the bus is still not done.
DeVaughn said she’s canceled multiple events, is paying four storage units and declined invitations from schools because she can’t fit her merchandise in an Uber. Students that she hired to help on the bus as part of the city’s youth employment program also missed out on the experience.
“I would like to find another company to work with who can finish the job that Ortega started," said DeVaughn.
NY1 stopped by Ortega Upholstery. Its owner said he’s been in business for six years but has been doing this type of work for 20.
The owner, Eddy Ortega, told NY1 in Spanish that he wanted to be a part of the project because it will help the community, but admits it did not go as planned and communication could have been better.
“This is delayed because of the pandemic this year. It was a little hard when I ordered the materials and we have a lot of jobs together," added Esther Familia, the administrator at the business.
Ortega offered a $4000 discount to DeVaughn if she agreed to give him more time to finish, but she wants to move on. After Ortega finishes the work covered in the deposit, she will have to find a new company.
“I am really sorry for the company that we can’t finish the job,” said Familia.
DeVaughn originally told NY1 she hoped to find another company that can take over and finish the job in time for the upcoming fall and school events. She contacted NY1 shortly after to share that the visit to the company may have been the push needed to get the job done, saying in a text:
“I’ve never seen them do so much work in all 90 day!!! I believe your time and attention to this matter amplified their productivity…I’ve decided to let them finish.”