Other stores may be struggling in today's economy, but Andover Bookstore in Andover, Mass.—the second oldest bookstore in the U.S., after the Moravian Book Shop in Bethlehem, Pa.—has successfully ridden out a number of financial lows to reach its 200th birthday this month.
Founded in 1809, Andover Bookstore has had an academic component from the start, supplying textbooks for 231-year-old Philips Academy from its earliest days. Today, textbooks, clothing, and other logo items for the school account for 25% of the store's sales, said manager John Hugo, whose father, Bob Hugo, rescued Andover from near bankruptcy with his purchase in 1992. One of the first changes that Bob, who also owns Spirit of '76 Bookstore in Marblehead, Mass., and the Book Rack in Newburyport, Mass., made to right the store's finances was to computerize its inventory. Now he's looking at computers contributing to sales in a whole other way. He just signed with the ABA's IndieCommerce program to sell books and e-books on the Web sites of all three stores. In a back-to-the future move, the Hugos are also considering adding an Espresso Book Machine, which would enable Andover to print books once again. The bookstore housed an active printing press from 1813 until 1960, when the Andover Press ceased operation.
Although the basic layout of Andover Bookstore remains, including the working fireplace, the shop has undergone a major face-lift this year. The Hugos turned the basement into a textbook annex and moved children's books up to the second floor. They also purchased new Franklin fixtures in keeping with the old wood feeling of the store and redid the lighting to make the space brighter. It's a good time for renovations, said John. In a down economy, customers just assume that the store is doing well and are reassured that it will be around for a long time to come.
Certainly that's something father and son want as well.