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Dartmouth Bookstore to Close By Year’s End

  • Stephanie Jamrog, of Sharon, Vt., gets lost in "Phantom" by Terry Goodkind after finding the novel at Dartmouth Bookstore in Hanover, N.H., on March 22, 2010. “I’ve been looking everywhere for this book,” she said. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • The Dartmouth Bookstore, operated by Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, Inc., in Hanover, N.H., will close by the end of the year after failing to renew its lease with building owner Jay Campion. Photographed Friday, Sept. 28, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • John Moody, of West Hartford, decided to buy a book that caught his eye on the bargain table outside the Dartmouth Bookstore in Hanover, N.H., Friday, Sept. 28, 2018. "I always check here first," said Moody when he's looking for a particular title. The store, operated by Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, Inc., failed to renew its lease with building owner Jay Campion and will close by the end of 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • The Dartmouth Bookstore, operated by Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, Inc., in Hanover, N.H., will close by the end of the year after failing to renew its lease with building owner Jay Campion. Photographed Friday, Sept. 28, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, September 28, 2018

Hanover — After more than 140 years of operation, the Dartmouth Bookstore will close at the end of the calendar year.

Barnes & Noble College Inc. and Jay Campion, managing trustee for the building’s family ownership group, confirmed on Friday they’ve been unable to agree to terms for a new lease once the current 10-year agreement expires on Dec. 31. Barnes and Noble College, which has operated the store since 2004 and owned it since 2009, confirmed it does not plan to renew it.

“We’re heartbroken,” said Barnes & Noble College vice president of stores Paul Maloney, who helped facilitate the company’s purchasing of the store in winter 2009. “This is not what we wanted. We loved being in the Hanover community and we wanted to stay. … We just can’t keep incurring losses.”

The pending closing was first reported in the Friday edition of The Dartmouth student newspaper.

Campion, who manages the E. Ronan Campion and James Campion trustee group that owns the space, said he is lamenting the closing and has taken steps to accommodate Barnes & Noble, helping it to downsize from more than 44,000 square feet in 2009 — which included property owned by another landlord — to just under 21,700 square feet today.

The original bookstore was founded by Dartmouth College students in 1872 in the space near the corner of South Main and West Wheelock streets that is currently occupied by Dirt Cowboy Cafe. It was purchased by the Storrs family in 1883 and settled into its current location near the corner of South Main and Allen streets in 1963, according to Campion.

“It’s an institution and a piece of Main Street architecture,” Campion said in a Friday interview. “It has survived a lot of other changes downtown, but the business model just wasn’t working.”

Unlike many bookstores in college towns, Dartmouth Bookstore is not affiliated with its namesake school and never has been, according to former store owner and retired public accountant John Schiffman, of Hanover. There was a time when students relied almost exclusively on the Dartmouth Bookstore for textbooks, but that changed with the advent of internet commerce and a falling out between the college and previous ownership, Schiffman said.

Today, Dartmouth Bookstore has no academic textbook section and largely resembles other Barnes & Noble retail stores, save for an abundance of Dartmouth College-themed apparel and accessories. Like many Barnes and Noble locations, it has large children’s and young adult sections and includes a Starbucks cafe.

Meanwhile, Dartmouth students acquire textbooks online — they can even save money by renting, not buying, books on Amazon — at alumni-owned Wheelock Books near the top of West Wheeleck Street or via the Borrow Direct program at the campus library.

Even the accessories haven’t been a big hit among students. On Friday, Dartmouth senior Maria Garman said she hadn’t shopped at the Dartmouth Bookstore regularly since getting a lot of Dartmouth-themed clothing there as a freshman. Freshman Ryan Waaland, meanwhile, said he recently visited the store hoping to buy a daily planner, but found the price too expensive and ended up ordering it online.

One student, senior Sam Siegel, said he wished he’d discovered the store sooner. “I’ve bought my textbooks wherever it’s cheapest and most convenient, either on Amazon or at Wheelock Books,” Siegel said. “But I went into the Dartmouth Bookstore the other day for the first time and found a cool book about tying knots. I probably never would have come across it (online).”

Nancy Cressman, owner of neighboring Left Bank Books, which focuses on used, out-of-print and rare titles, said it’s those kinds of chance encounters that make bookstore shopping special. “You get a much better sense for the quality of the illustrations, how the book feels in your hand,” Cressman said on Friday. “You consider works you never thought of before.”

Instead of competing with Dartmouth Bookstore, Cressman said, the stores complemented one another.

“We share customers,” she said. “If a customer wants a special order of something out of print, they’ll refer them to me. If it’s a new title (a customer) is after, Dartmouth Bookstore is the first place I send them.”

Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin said Dartmouth Bookstore is valuable as more than a place to browse through books and that it contributes to the vibrancy of downtown, which has also experienced the closings of mainstays such as Everything But Anchovies in 2017 and the Canoe Club and Folk craft store more recently.

“It’s a major community node, one of our main cogs and a really popular place to shop for the holidays,” Griffin said.

Among the store’s regular holiday shoppers is Hanover High junior Zofia Zerphy, who was hanging out with friends on the Dartmouth Green after school on Friday.

“I definitely got a lot of gifts there for people, including books that I know people want,” Zerphy said. “I’m definitely part of the internet generation, but sometimes you want browsing to be part of the experience.”

Campion said he is hopeful the new space will welcome a new tenant soon that will help keep downtown Hanover a destination. “Something good is going to happen there,” he said.

Campion would not place a figure on exactly how much his family trust is asking for to rent the space, saying it would depend on elements such as infrastructure requirements. Griffin said rentals on the first floor on South Main Street are upward of $35 per square foot.

“That’s comparable to downtown Boston, if not higher,” she said. “You can compare that to places on the second floor on Allen Street, which are more in the $16-$18 per square foot range.”

Schiffman, an entrepreneur who owned the store from 2004 to 2009, is involved with several not-for-profit initiatives, including the Upper Valley Snow Sports Foundation, which assumed ownership of Whaleback Mountain in Enfield after previous owners went bankrupt several years ago..

“I’m disappointed to learn of the indication that the Dartmouth Bookstore will close on Dec. 31,” Schiffman said in an interview on Friday. “I’ll do whatever possible to facilitate an agreement so that the store will be kept open for the benefit of the greater Upper Valley, Hanover and the Dartmouth community.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.

Correction

The Dartmouth Bookstore moved to its current location near the corner of South Main and Allen streets in 1963 after the Hanover Co-op moved from there to its new building on South Park Street. An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect date for the two moves.