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A 161-Year-Old Boston Bookstore Moves Online


Now we have the story of a red brick building in Cambridge, Mass. Not so impressive from the outside, but downstairs underground, you could find books from all over the world. Those who went there include Charlie Porter (ph), a customer at Schoenhof's Foreign Books.

CHARLIE PORTER: It's this great sort of microcosm of multiculturalism right there in the middle of Cambridge.


Porter went looking for Spanish and French literature.

PORTER: You know, it was like this club the monolinguals don't really have access to.

MARTIN: You notice he says it was like a club? The bookstore is closing its doors tomorrow.

INSKEEP: Since 1856, it's been a place where knowing a language unlocked another culture. There was literature in languages like Dutch, Japanese, Portuguese, French and German.

MARTIN: But physical real estate has become too expensive. So Schoenhof's Foreign Books is moving exclusively online.

MADELEINE FLANAGAN: We have just seen that the industry's really changing. And we need to say hello and good morning and just come to our new area.

INSKEEP: Madeleine Flanagan is the store's executive manager, who opens up shop every morning - or who has been doing that. She is optimistic about the change since, of course, many customers already shop online.

MARTIN: As for the idea of having a farewell party tomorrow, she says no need.

FLANAGAN: We are not completely getting out from Cambridge because we want eventually to come back here. I mean, this is where Schoenhof was born. So we don't want to say goodbye, (laughter) we are not. Maybe we take a little break from, but we're coming back in a short time.

MARTIN: Madeleine Flanagan, after 161 years, writing a new chapter for Schoenhof's Foreign Books.

(SOUNDBITE OF TIN HAT'S "NEW WEST") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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