In a sign of how significant the impact of the new coronavirus is on the foundations of American bookselling, the Andover Bookstore, America’s oldest continuously operated independent bookstore, is turning to customers to help ensure its doors will open again when the pandemic passes. On Wednesday, owner John Hugo announced that the store, like others across the country, has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $125,000 in order to ensure the bookstore’s survival.
The Andover, Mass., bookshop opened in 1809, when James Madison was president, and has weathered every national crisis since—but it was a regional crisis that precipitated the current challenges Hugo is facing. In 2018, the Merrimack Valley gas explosions led to widespread business closures and as much as $1 billion in losses to the economy of the area, which is located north of Boston. In the aftermath, Hugo shuttered two other bookstores that he owned and sold another. Then the coronavirus hit.
“We are running out of cash to pay our rent, utilities, payroll, liabilities, and publishers, and make sure we have enough cash on-hand to re-open once we make it through,” Hugo wrote on the store’s GoFundMe page. “We are making a small amount through our website and very much appreciate all of your support, but it is not enough to pay our rent and our payroll.”
In a statement, Hugo wrote that he is optimistic the store will find a way to emerge from the outbreak prepared for future as long as its past. “We are so grateful for all the support from our local community and are especially looking forward to the day we open our doors again,” said Hugo.