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Storied Penn Book Center gets a new chapter in its life

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Penn Book Center co-owner Michael Row said he and his wife, Ashley Montague, were about to become two more victims of Amazon.

“Amazon is selling a lot of the course materials at less than we can get them from the publisher,” Row said. “And free shipping.”

They announced in April that they planned to close the landmark, independent bookstore after 50 years — to many patrons’ dismay.

“We were convinced there was no hope,” said Row. The store has been a staple of Penn’s campus since the ’60s.

“We would just kind of slink out the back door. And you know, *****bang! The press and the publicity went out everywhere. Completely changed our approach to it. We started dealing with it, and the press reached this couple down in Alabama.”

Fate stepped in, and a new chapter is about to begin for the beloved store, as new owners prepare to take over on Sept. 1.

Another eager husband-and-wife team, Matt Duquès and Diana Bellonby, will take over Penn Book Center at 34th and Sansom streets.

“We were seriously thinking about opening up a bookstore in Philadelphia already,” Duquès said, “and had been looking into it for over a year when we saw the stories about Penn Book Center.” 

He said it’s a great fit because they’re both academics, writers and book lovers. But they’ll also have to be business savvy if they’re going to turn the store around. 

Duquès and Bellonby plan to make it a place that people will want to frequent more often.  

“We’re going to set up a space for book clubs and classes,” he continued. “We’re basically going to redesign the space to make it more conducive to community and to lingering.” 

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