Newburyport's Book Rack closes, leaving vacant retail spot

RICHARD K. LODGE/Staff photoThe Book Rack, at 58 State St., Newburyport, closed over the weekend. 

NEWBURYPORT – After 47 years at the corner of State and Pleasant streets, The Book Rack bookstore shut down on Saturday, leaving a prominent downtown retail storefront vacant and papered over.

Owner John Hugo, whose family has owned bookstores since the 1960s, said "with much dismay" the store was closing because of declining sales and changing reading habits. The store opened in 1972.

In a press release Saturday night, Hugo said six years ago the bookstore downsized and combined spaces with the Atomic Cafe, which is now the Coffee Factory. 

"It was a partnership that worked extremely well for five years," he said in the release. "However, sales began to decline steadily in the fall of 2018 and throughout the usually busy Christmas season and subsequent 2019 summer months."

The online retail giant Amazon proved formidable competition for the corner bookstore, he said.

"People read less in today's fast paced social media and Netflix world and those that do read have taken their purchases largely to Amazon for its cost and convenience," Hugo wrote. "The Bookstore cannot meet the fixed costs any longer. The Hugo Family will continue to operate its other three stores in Andover and Marblehead. Keep reading and keep shopping locally."

Hugo could not be reached for comment Sunday. 

The Coffee Factory, which abuts The Book Rack, was open for business Sunday. The Coffee Factory and The Book Rack had an opening connecting them until the bookstore closed. 

The Hugo family owns the Spirit of '76 in Marblehead, which was started in 1965 by Robert W. Hugo, John Hugo's father, as well as the Andover Bookstore and Campus Collection, both in Andover. 

Last year, Hugo opened the Amesbury Books pop-up store in downtown Amesbury the day before Thanksgiving to capitalize on the Christmas shopping season.

In January, he said he was closing the store because he didn't see enough walking traffic during the week to support it. 

"We gave it a shot," he said in January. "It was kind of eye opening. I love the community, I love the people, the breweries and the restaurants. But there is just not enough walking traffic Monday through Thursday" to support a bookstore.

The Newburyport building where The Book Rack is located is owned by Eastern Yacht Sales & Charters Inc., according to city assessor records.  The company, at 58 State St., Newburyport,  bought the building last year for $1.1 million.

Easter Yacht Sales is registered with the Secretary of State's Office with the State Street, Newburyport, address, and John Hugo as president.

Richard K. Lodge is editor of The Daily News. Follow him on Twitter @RichardLodge_DN. 

Editor's note: This story corrects the building's sale price, ownership of the Coffee Factory and street address of The Book Rack from an earlier version.

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