After 34 years, Chester County Book Company (CCBC) has closed its doors.
“In the first 15 years or so of our history, stores were the only place to buy books,” said CCBC owner Kathy Fortney as she reflected on how the bookselling climate has changed over the intervening decades. “Think about that. And you couldn’t Google anything; you had to buy a book or borrow one from the library.”
Over the years, CCBC has been active in the Shop Small, Shop Local movement, and participated in the fledgling Independent Bookstore Day each April.
For every $100 you spend at locally owned businesses, $68 will stay in the community as opposed to being funneled to corporate centers, according to the non-profit Independent We Stand. Local businesses are better at creating higher-paying jobs for your neighbors, and shopping local also takes less of a toll on the environment.
These are the practical arguments for shopping local, but it’s the community centers that local businesses like bookstores provide that create a fierce loyalty in their customers. As it moved from location to location, CCBC became an institution of the West Chester community.
“When Bob and I first bought Margaret Alburn’s store in the Parkway Center in 1982, it sure didn’t feel like an “institution”. We painted the walls, my brother laid the carpet, we rearranged the fixtures,” Kathy said. “Once we reopened as Chester County Book Company it was such a satisfying feeling of “This is mine”! We began building the inventory to keep up with customer demand. That was the basic philosophy through the next two expansions and 20 years: constantly expanding the selection based on requests from voracious readers. As it became a huge store with music & a restaurant, I was very proud of what we accomplished.”
Three years ago, after a short regrouping period, CCBC reopened with a smaller footprint in its most recent location because of the grassroots effort of local readers to save the store. With the closing of the smaller store this month, Chester County Book Company is proud to recognize and recommend Wellington Square Bookshop as the only place to go for an amazing literary experience.
“Chester County Book Company and Wellington Square Bookshop (WSB) are not simply stores where you buy books. They are not simply retail establishments. They are not (unfortunately) great profit centers,” said Sam Hankin of the Hankin Group, owner of WSB. “They are fairylands, they are libraries, they are universities, they are cultural centers, they are not Barnes and Noble, they are not Amazon. Most importantly they are places to walk into and be happy, a door to a world that is different somehow in an almost mystical way.”
“Mourning the passing of CCBC, I’ve had some time to reflect on how much the shop meant to me and my family,” Hankin said. “A third of a century of bolstering literacy and cultural awareness. You can’t give your life, your time and your experience to a better cause. Thanks Kathy!”
Fortney returns the compliment, as well. “[WSB] is such a wonderful store with a great staff of book lovers. It will now be my bookstore!”
As proud as we are of Kathy's words, all of us are very heartened that Wellington Square Bookshop has the honor this year of being named Best Independent Bookstore by Philadelphia Magazine, Mainline Today, Philly.com and The Daily Local.
We hope to see you at Wellington Square Bookshop soon!
Staff of Wellington Square Book Shop