To many people, the Andover Bookstore, located downtown off Main Street, is truly more than just a bookstore. While it has changed throughout the centuries, it remains an important part of Andover's academic and intellectual legacy.
Founded in 1809 by Mark Newman, the Andover Bookstore is the oldest operating business in Andover and the second oldest bookstore in the nation. It was originally located on the Andover Theological Seminary campus. Newman resigned as the principal of Phillips Academy to become the primary bookseller for the seminary and the academy. In 1813, Dr. Eliphalet Pearson moved Andover's printing press, acquired in 1798, onto the second floor of Newman's bookstore. Timothy Flagg and Abraham J. Gould were the primary operators of the press until 1832. Before Flagg died in 1831, the bookstore and the printing press moved to the Brick House, where Newman's son Mark H. Newman continued his father's bookselling business. Warren F. Draper purchased the bookstore in 1854.
A large part of the bookstore's success was due to textbook sales to students of the seminary, Abbot Academy, the Punchard Free School, and Phillips Academy. In the late 1860s, the store moved off the seminary's campus to 37 Main St., but its connection to the students remained.
Ownership changed again in 1887 and John N. Cole became the store's business manager. Utilizing the store's printing press, Cole and his associates began publication of the Andover Townsman. Thriving under his leadership, Cole moved the press and printing business out of the bookstore. As with the original family owners, Cole's son, Philip P. Cole, took over the store following the death of his father.
In 1960, Jerome and Ethel Cross purchased the bookstore, giving it a new life and a new location. While Cross sold coal and oil for profit, selling books was his passion. "You have to be a little patient," Mrs. Cross remembers, "book buying is contagious." The couple renovated an old barn at 89R Main St. making it an ideal setting for the beloved bookstore—cozy and inviting, with thousands of titles that could occupy a reader for hours.
After 30 years, the Crosses sold the thriving bookstore to William and Carolyn Dalton in 1990. In 1992, Robert Hugo purchased the Andover Bookstore and incorporated it into Hugo Bookstores - a small, independent chain of local bookstores including Spirit of '76 Bookstore in Marblehead and The Book Rack in Newburyport.
Based on its history, it is clear that even a small bookstore can have a large impact on the community. Despite the changing times of online books and big bookstores, the Andover Bookstore continues to provide an intimate place where friends and neighbors can gather to talk books, politics, and so much more, and the Hugo family wants it to stay that way.
"There is still a love for coming to a bookstore," John Hugo, manager of the Andover store says, "it's a community that you can't get on the Internet." With over 50 author events every year, with both widely-known and local authors, the bookstore remains the heart of Andover's scholastic community. Phillips Academy continues to use the bookstore as its primary text source, as the long lines at the beginning of the school year prove. And who could resist the crackling of fire and the cozy chairs that invite readers to the store on a cold winter day?
The number of independent bookstores may be declining, but with local support, the Andover Bookstore will continue to withstand the test of time by providing not only books, but a sense of community. It stands tall among Andover's most treasured institutions.
"Andover Stories" is a weekly column about interesting local people and events, told in anticipation of the Andover Historical Society's 100 anniversary in 2011.