The final chapters of four local same-family-owned independent bookstores — all owned by the Andover Bookstore owner — have turned a page as three of those four stores have closed.
The most recent was the Spirit of '76 Bookstore in Marblehead, which closed shortly after Christmas. The Book Rack in Newburyport closed in 2018 and a Swampscott bookstore closed in 2013.
But Andover Bookstore on Main Street is safe, the owner said, stressing it is his best store.
"No!," Andover Bookstore owner John Hugo replied when asked if his Andover Bookstore would close.
"The goal is to keep Andover rolling along,'' he said. "It is my best store with favorable lease terms.''
He wouldn't get specific about those lease terms, only saying he plans to be on Main Street "hopefully a long, long time."
Considered a town treasure by many, the Andover Bookstore is 211 years old this year, making it the oldest independent bookstore in the country. The Hugo family acquired the Andover Bookstore in 1992.
Founded the same year that President Abraham Lincoln was born — 1809 — the Andover Bookstore was located at 89R Main St. for many years. That building was demolished as part of a redevelopment project. A new restaurant, Smythe and Dove, is now located there.
The Andover Bookstore moved to 77 Main St. in 2017. Hugo also owns the Campus Collection retail store on Main Street in Andover. It's a store featruring Andover and Phillips Academy-themed clothing, merchandise and accessories, according to its website.
Hugo has said people read less in today's fast-paced "social media and Netflix world" and that's why his other bookstores were forced to close. Plus, competing with online giant Amazon is just too difficult. Hugo refers to Amazon as "the Big River" of cardboard boxes and once cited that phrase when he closed his bookstore in Marblehead.
"Don't let the 'Big River' sweep all your local merchants away" read a sign on the 54-year-old Marblehead bookstore's locked front door last week.
John Hugo's father, Robert Hugo, bought his first independent bookstore in Marblehead in 1965 and grew the family-owned business to four independent bookstores by 2011. Only the Andover Bookstore remains.