He distributed stories from around the world at Out of Town News in Harvard Square for decades, but now it’s Sheldon Cohen’s turn to be the storyline.
Next week the Harvard Square Business Association and several other Cambridge organizations are teaming up to tell stories about Cohen, who operated the landmark newsstand in Harvard Square from 1955 to 1994.
Known as the unofficial mayor of Harvard Square, Cohen, now 80 years old, just sold his other Out of Town business—Out of Town Ticket Agency—to Ace Tickets in December, and he said he’s now in negotiations to sell his remaining business, Community Mapping, Inc., in Cambridge.
As Cohen retires from his longtime businesses, the Harvard Square Business Association thought it would be a good time to recognize his legacy, said Denise Jillson, the executive director of the association.
The association is teaming with StoryStream Cambridge, a group created in 2009 to promote storytelling, to host a “Story Trade” about Cohen on Tuesday at 50 Church Street in Harvard Square from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
“That is what you do in the newspaper business, right, you re-tell stories, so it seems to be an appropriate way [of honoring Cohen],” Jillson said.
Already, Jillson said about 60 people have said they will be attending the event, including Cambridge City Manager Robert Healy, who may also swap a story about Cohen.
Cohen is a past president of and a current honorary member of the Harvard Square Business Association, and he said Thursday that he’s honored to be recognized by the organization. The Cambridge Public Library and the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, of which Cohen is also a member, are co-hosting the event.
Cohen now lives in Jamaica Plain and said he still visits Out of Town News in Harvard Square two or three times a week to buy magazines.
He opened the business in 1955 and sold it to Hudson News in 1994. Retail store operator Muckey’s Corp. took over the landmark business in 2009 when Hudson News, citing diminishing demand for print news,decided not to renew its lease for the newsstand with the City of Cambridge.
During heyday of the newsstand, Cohen’s famous customers included Jack Kennedy, Tip O’Neill, Henry Kissinger, just to name a few, and he knew the late Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham on a first-name basis. The island where the newsstand is located in Harvard Square is now named after Cohen.
After selling Out of Town Tickets to Ace Tickets last month, Cohen said he’s now looking to sell his map publishing business, Community Mapping, Inc., at 872 Massachusetts Ave. near Harvard Square.
Once he sells the business, Cohen said he plans to take life “one day at a time.”
Next Tuesday, Cohen said he may also have tale to tell at the “Story Trade,” but he hasn’t decided what it might be.
“I’ll see what comes to mind,” Cohen said. “That’s what it’s all about, off-the-cuff, you know.”
Anyone wishing to RSVP for the Story Trade honoring Sheldon Cohen is being asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 617-491-3400 by Thursday, Jan. 5.