The Penn Book Center announced the store will stay open until the end of August, according to an email from the owners to the Philadelphia community. The revised plan from the original May closure date comes after an agreement with the University and protests from local writers and Penn students and faculty.
Penn Book Center owners Ashley Montague, who graduated from Penn in 1999 with a Ph.D. in English, and Michael Row, who received Operation & Information Management Ph.D. in 2001, announced in the email that an agreement with their "landlords" — the University — will allow them to stay open in the summer.
"We'll use this time to work on a business plan that, we hope, will allow the store to stay open and prosper," Montague and Row said in the email.
The bookstore, which has been on campus for nearly 60 years, first announced its intent to close on April 8, citing financial hardship as the reason for the decision. In response, English professor Chi-ming Yang launched a petition on April 10 calling on the University to help the bookstore improve its business model. The petition has since received over 5,000 signatures from Philadelphia residents.
Montague and Row also announced their decision to cancel the Frequent Buyer Program in order to stabilize finances. The Frequent Buyer Program allowed customers to receive $10 in credit for every $100 purchase. Customers who have saved up reward credits may use those credits through August 2019, but cannot earn new reward credits.
Row told The Daily Pennsylvanian he applauds the University for its cooperation and support.
“The University is very interested in our survival to try to see if there is any way of making it succeed," Row said.
The bookstore owners also referenced Yang's petition and thanked community members who contributed to "phenomenal" sales in the past two months.
“We are so grateful to all of you for the amazing support you have shown our store, with special thanks to Prof. Chi-ming Yang and all our well-wishers at Penn and beyond,” said Montague and Row in the email.
After the petition gained thousands of signatures, the Penn English department organized one-hour rallies in front of Van Pelt Library from April 22 through April 26. Students, faculty, and local residents stood in protest and recited poetry to call on Penn to save the Penn Book Center.
“I think there has been a tremendous amount of movement," Yang said. "The book center owners are incredibly energized and grateful to the massive support that was generated through the rallies and petition and the media coverage."
2019 College graduate Derek Willie said the summer, however, will present a challenge as most of the students will not be around campus to support the bookstore.
“It might be hard for them to attract some of the same traffic that they would have during the semester,” Willie said.
Hao Tam, a sixth year English Ph.D. candidate, also said the bookstore will need to find a way to maintain momentum into the summer. He added that he believes the University has all the resources to keep the bookstore running and help the owners develop a sustainable business model.
“If the administrators have a will, they will have a way,” Tam said.
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