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Harvard Book Store for sale

Posted by Jan Gardner  May 27, 2008 09:48 AM

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It's not a big surprise but Harvard Book Store is for sale. Owner Frank Kramer is 66 and thinking about the next phase of his life. He's hired Ridge Hill Partners, a boutique mergers and acquisition intermediary firm in Needham, to manage the sale.

Frank Kramer was beginning his senior year at college as a philosophy major when he took over the store in 1962 after his father, Mark Kramer, died unexpectedly. His father founded the store in 1932. By all accounts, Frank Kramer has done a heckuva job as the store is both profitable and well-loved.

Kramer, a co-founder of Cambridge Local First, expects to stay involved in Cambridge and Harvard Square.

Along with the announcement of the sale came a list of FAQs, excerpted here:

Q: When will the store be sold?
A: There is no definite time. It all depends on how long it takes to find the right buyer.

Q: Is Frank selling Harvard Book Store because the store is performing badly?
A: No. The store is profitable and, if properly run, we expect it will continue to be.

Q: Is this happening because the rent is overwhelming?
A: No. Our landlord is Harvard University and they have been very supportive of us.

Q: What will happen to the employees? They’re great people.
A: We are seeking an owner who will operate the store pretty much as it is running now and who will continue to work on improving the store going forward. Harvard Book Store is now run largely by Carole Horne, our general manager, and an experienced team of dedicated managers supported by a strong and committed staff. We cannot imagine why the next owner would not keep them on.

Q: If the business is sold, what will happen to my gift certificates?
A: Gift certificates will be fully honored by the next owner of Harvard Book Store.

Q: Will the frequent buyer program continue?
A: We expect, with the focus on customer loyalty in retailing today, that the frequent buyer program will continue, but this will be up to the next owner.

Q: Will the Author Event Series continue? I really enjoy that program.
A: Again, the next owner will make long-term decisions for Harvard Book Store, but the Author Event Series has been very popular and very successful, so we think it will continue or perhaps get even stronger.

Q: I’ve noticed that you are beginning to sell many non-book items. Why is this happening?
A: It is no secret that independent bookstores across the country are losing some of their book sales to the internet and other media. Despite this trend, people continue to need and enjoy a physical place in their communities and in travel destinations where the world of ideas and the literary mind are celebrated. Harvard Book Store has been that place for 75 years because we have sought out books and other products that our customers will buy. We will only remain profitable if we keep doing that.

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7 comments so far...
  1. Frank Kramer should ask an unreasonably high price for it. If nobody bites, he should turn it into expensive condominiums. Just think of the profit he could make. Who needs a book store when you have the internet and copy machines at Kinkos.

    Posted by JB May 27, 08 01:47 PM
  1. let's buy it!!

    Posted by busta May 27, 08 06:10 PM
  1. So, condos made of books and shelves? I may buy one actually, but he'd need to purchase land to build these on....

    A question you forgot to ask: is the "right" buyer by definition local? Is he going to negotiate with corporate bookstores?

    Posted by Pierce May 27, 08 06:54 PM
  1. Frank and Carole,
    One does not "sell" Harvard Bookstore. It's passed on, shrewedly,
    passionately, intelligently, to a kindred spirit, recalling all of us who
    fought for what the store is thought of now. It's a gift to anyone who buys it.
    Better yet, don't sell it at all. Sixty-six is nothing, Frank. It's the new fifty.

    Much love to you both,
    Chris Catchick
    ccatchick@yahoo.com

    Posted by Chris Catchick June 4, 08 12:26 AM
  1. Frank should talk to the new owners of the Booksmith in San Francisco. They took over the famous bookstore last year and seem to be doing wonders with it. There was a lot of buzz about them at BEA this year. Independent bookselling is a difficult and shrinking business and you need someone who has a strong vision and is willing to take considerable risk. I heard the Indian guy challenge one of the panelists at the book expo and he was dynamo.

    Posted by Janet M. June 4, 08 01:48 PM
  1. I hope the new owners maintain that personal feel. Forget the Big Bookstore chains, I'd much rather have to order the book that I'm looking for and have someplace to relax among other book lovers than to be considered just another person in line buying books from people who are only there to collect a check.

    Posted by FemmeyzAdixon August 11, 09 11:51 PM
  1. The good Lord willing...I will be winning the power ball in Florida tonight and I will buy this for my daughter. She has been a passionate reader since picking up and reading her first book "Black Beauty" at age 4! She is in the process of getting a degree in English Lit and has always expressed the desire to own a book store of her own. Please say a pray for us as Aly will commit to this project like the Kramer's have all these years. She's very fortunate to have a mother with book store operations management skills who will be more than willing to oversee operations while she completes her degree...Wish us Luck!

    Posted by Jackie Barden September 23, 09 01:09 PM
 
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Nicole Lamy is editor of the Globe's Books section.
Jan Gardner writes the "Shelf Life" column for the Globe's Books section.
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