say it isn’t so west chester! chester county book and music company is CLOSING?

I just read the most awful thing on the West Chester PA Facebook Page :

Coffee Talk: How do you feel about the Chester County Book & Music Company closing down? What are you hoping takes its place? Share your memories and thoughts with us below.

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

I just discovered Chester County Book & Music Company within the last year.  Was just there to photograph Teresa Giudice, one of the Real Housewives of NJ in the Bravo reality series land when she had a book signing about a month ago.

A website named West Chester Does which my browser won’t let me open so there must be viruses on it has this to say:

The Chester County Book Company grew from its first size of 1K square feet in 1982 to 28K square feet, making it one of the largest independently owned bookstores in the US. However, the book store is entering into its last chapter; closing. Even though the store stocks over 100K book titles, over 25K music recordings and 5K movies it’s no match for on-line discounters like Amazon.com. For now, the closing date has not been determined. The Chester County Book Company and its 38 employees will continue to serve customers as normal. The owner of the West Goshen Shopping Center; Robbins & Co has agreed to give the book store 60 day notice to leave once the time comes. The book store has been in the community for a long time and many will  miss it.

(Truthfully I wish West Chester Does would figure out whatever it is that doesn’t allow its site to open because it looks like it has a lot of good stuff on it)

Anyway, back to CCB&M.  What a wonderful store!  On the Main Line proper where I used to live, we first saw most of the independent book stores die – one of the only ones left is Reader’s Forum in Wayne.  Then we watched the big box book stores die.  First Barnes & Noble disappeared, then Borders.  If you wanted used or rare books, there were stores to accommodate that need, but until I moved to Chester County, if I wanted a real honest to goodness book store I had to hunt.

When I saw Chester County Book & Music in that godforsaken and truly ugly West Goshen Shopping Center (well it is.  It makes Ardmore West Shopping Center in Ardmore look attractive), it was like I could hear that “taaa daa” sound in my head.  A book store was close by.  And not just a chain, but an independent book store with employees who actually liked and cared about books and weren’t just chain store cash register jockeys.

I gave Chester County Book & Music a call this morning and spoke to someone who is a long-term employee.  They tell me the store will be open indefinitely.They do not have a definite closing date.

I heard a LA Fitness might go there. L A Fitness seems to be springing up all over and they are trying to shove one in the Wynnewood Shopping Center too, and from what I am told residents down there are none too happy.  Chain stores eat small businesses as a far as I am concerned.  They have their place, but nothing can ever replace the place small businesses have in our communities.

LA Fitness is to me like Rite Aid or CVS, as in how many are needed?

We don’t have book stores, but we have tons and tons of chains and big box stores.

In this economy, it behooves us even more than before to support our local businesses. Local businesses are often run by neighbors and friends, or neighbors and friends are employed by small businesses.    Small businesses also help define a community’s character.

So that being said, I wonder.  I wonder if someone in the West Chester area stood up and told the owner of Chester County Book and Music Kathy Simoneaux they had a new location for her if she would consider it?  Maybe smaller, definitely less expensive in the rent category, but could this business be saved?  Maybe not all employees would keep their jobs, but some would and wouldn’t it be worth a shot?

So West Chester.  Think hard.  Who do you know that has a space to fill that maybe this book store could move to?  Seems to me not every retail slot is filled.  Seems to me maybe even along Paoli Pike there might be something? A site for the store without the cafe.  Bookstores don’t need to be in the restaurant business.

And interestingly enough when I asked the employee if that had been considered, the response was “go for it” ….as in it couldn’t hurt.  “None of us want this store to close.” they said.

I don’t know about you, but I love book stores. I love books.  I have done the electronic version, but truthfully, nothing replaces the feel of a book in your hands, or the smell of new books.

Can this business be saved?  I for one would love it. It seems to me when I read the article it is the landlord giving them the boot, doesn’t it?  And if the West Goshen Shopping Center is owned and operated as per newspaper by this Robbins & Co of Bala Cynwyd, is there any connection between the LA Fitness proposed for Wynnewood and the one proposed for West Goshen?  Also important to note, the one in Wynnewood they are trying to get shoved through as being open 24 hours a day and is that something people out here would want?

Here is the article in the Daily Times:

Business

Published: Thursday, July 19, 2012

By GRETCHEN METZ gmetz@journalregister.com
WEST GOSHEN — The Chester County Book Co. & Magnolia Grill on Paoli Pike is looking at its last chapter. The store so familiar to so many in the region is set to close.The space that is the book store and the former neighboring Fashion Bug could become a LA Fitness exercise center.

Kathy Simoneaux, owner of the book store, said her old lease expired in January and the store has been renting on a month-to-month lease ever since.

As for a closing date, “I have no idea when that will happen,” Simoneaux said. “We’re going along business as usual.”…..The landlord will give the book store 60-days notice to vacate when it comes time to move, she said.

The decision to end the lease was “mutual,” Simoneaux said. “It was a 15-year-old lease that steadily increased every year.”

Eventually, she said, the rent got “unbearable.”

The book store moved into the West Goshen Shopping Center in 1987….Casey LaLonde, West Goshen township manager, said land development plans to add space to the shopping center were approved last week. The township won’t know when there will be a change in tenants until the owner of the center applies for building permits.

The new space will be 46,000 square feet, roughly 30,000 square feet from the book store, 12,000-square feet from the former Fashion Bug and an additional 4,000 square feet that will most likely be added in the back of the shopping center, LaLonde said.

“It’s sad to see the Chester County Book Company leave,” LaLonde said. “They’ve been a part of the community for a long time.”

The West Goshen Shopping Center is owned and managed by Robbins & Co. of Bala Cynwyd in Montgomery County.

real housewife of new jersey meets real housewives of chester county…

So tonight I went to a book signing at Chester County Books and Records.  It was for Teresa Giudice and her Fast & Fit cookbook.  Teresa is part of the Bravo Real Housewives franchise and she is on of the Real Housewives of New Jersey.

Now the last time I photographed a housewife it was Bethenny Frankel at Skirt in Bryn Mawr a couple of years ago. Bethenny was very nice and totally fun to photograph. And if you look at my photos you will see a couple of her now husband Jason – it was when they were dating, and before her RHONY spin-off.

But back to Teresa Giudice.  She was actually very sweet, and stopped mid signing to speak about a charity she is hot on, Nephcure.org.  There was a young woman there with Nephrotic Syndrome, and the whole thing was really very touching.  I believe Teresa said it was the charity she played for on Donald Trump and NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice.  Incidentally, Chester County’s own Congressman Jim Gerlach is an ambassador for Neph Cure.

I had a totally fun evening and met women from as far away as York and Lancaster, PA who made the drive to meet Teresa Giudice.   Teresa, incidentally is quite a knock out in person.  And again,  was completely pleasant and dow to earth, very different then the snippets of television persona viewers see on Bravo.  I think Bravo shoots something crazy like over 80 hours of tape to distill down to a 1 hour segment.

Some women I met are hardcore Real Housewife fans and told me about in essence a convention they went to – apparently the “wives” go on tour and these gals were showing me photos from Atlantic City.

Now let’s talk about Chester County Books and Records.  It is in the shopping center with the K-Mart and ACME.  That shopping center is the West Goshen Shopping Center on Paoli Pike. Now that shopping center has some good businesses and a wonderful ACME, too bad whomever is responsible for the property doesn’t give the exterior a facelift.

But back to Chester County Books and Music.  I love books, I love bookstores…and this is a giant independent bookstore.  I can’t wait to go back and explore!  Many thanks to Thea from the bookstore who does the events for letting me come in and take photos!  I hope to check out more book signings in the near future and just get lost in the books for a while.

If you were at this signing and want a photo, check out the set on flickr and message me via this blog or the Simple Shots Photography page on Facebook.