NEWBURYPORT – After 47 years at the corner of State and Pleasant streets, The Book Rack bookstore shut down on Saturday, leaving a prominent downtown retail storefront vacant and papered over.
Book Rack owner John Hugo, also the owner of the Spirit of '76 bookstore in Marblehead, said "with much dismay" the store at 52 State St., Newburyport, was closing because of declining sales and changing reading habits. The store opened in 1972.
In a press release Saturday night, Hugo said six years ago the bookstore downsized and combined spaces with the Atomic Cafe, which is now the Coffee Factory, at 56 State St.
"It was a partnership that worked extremely well for five years," he said in the release. "However, sales began to decline steadily in the fall of 2018 and throughout the usually busy Christmas season and subsequent 2019 summer months."
The online retail giant Amazon proved formidable competition for the corner bookstore, he said.
"People read less in today's fast paced social media and Netflix world and those that do read have taken their purchases largely to Amazon for its cost and convenience," Hugo wrote. "The Bookstore cannot meet the fixed costs any longer. The Hugo Family will continue to operate its other three stores in Andover and Marblehead. Keep reading and keep shopping locally."
Hugo could not be reached for comment on Sunday.
Hugo and his wife Catalina Cuervo own the Coffee Factory, which abuts The Book Rack and was open for business on Sunday. The Coffee Factory and The Book Rack had an opening connecting them until the bookstore closed.
The Hugo family owns the Marblehead bookstore, which was started in 1965 by Robert W. Hugo, John Hugo's father, as well as the Andover Bookstore and Campus Collection, both in Andover.
Last year Hugo opened the Amesbury Books pop-up store in downtown Amesbury the day before Thanksgiving, to capitalize on the Christmas shopping season.
In January, he said he was closing the store because he didn't see enough walking traffic during the week to support it.
"We gave it a shot," he said. "It was kind of eye-opening. I love the community, I love the people, the breweries and the restaurants. But there is just not enough walking traffic Monday through Thursday" to support a bookstore.
The Newburyport building where The Book Rack is located is owned by Eastern Yacht Sales & Charters, Inc., according to city assessors' records. The company, with an address of 54 State St., bought the building in 2001 for $750,000. Easter Yacht Sales is registered with the Secretary of State's Office with the 54 State St., Newburyport, address, and John Hugo as president.