While a deluge of restaurants and retail shops are expected to fill downtown Allentown in the wake of the PPL Center's debut in the fall, the city will soon be losing another bookstore.
Another Story used bookstore at 524 N. 18th St. (near Wert's Cafe) is holding a going-out-of-business sale (all books 50 percent off) through Friday. Owner John Furphy, who lives above the store, cites bad business in recent years as the main reason for closure.
"The store is basically the last frontier of literacy in the city and it has been largely ignored for a while now," 60-year-old Furphy said of the business, which holds around 20,000 books in 40 different sections.
The self-described "old hippie," who also does the radio program "Radio Free Hippie" Sunday nights on WMUH 91.7 FM, must supply his landlord with approximately $4,500 in overdue rent by Friday or he and his business will be kicked to the curb.
"Miracles could happen or pigs could fly out of my derriere — it's certainly big enough," joked Furphy, who recently spent $6 on scratch-off lottery tickets with no luck, "not even a free ticket."
Another Story appears to be the city's last full-line independent bookstore. Its imminent closure comes on the heels of the opening of Emmaus' new children's bookstore Let's Play Books!, which I highlighted two weeks ago.
While independent bookstores remain a challenging venture with the emergence of e-books and online retailers such as Amazon.com, industry analysts say there's a nationwide upswing in recent years.
According to a Dec. 5 Washington Post article, American Booksellers Association membership, which hit a low of 1,600 in 2008, grew 6.4 percent in 2013 to 2,022. Sales were up 8 percent in 2012, and those gains held last year as well.
Unfortunately, Furphy has been unable to ride this wave, reporting "pathetic" November sales of $698.85 and "relatively pathetic" December sales of $1,781.97. In the fall, he saw many days with no customers at all.
"It could be worse," said Furphy, who has accumulated $8,000 in credit-card debt to help keep his business afloat.
The bookstore, originally known as the Book Cellar, opened in 1984 in the basement of 104 N. Ninth St. According to Furphy, original owner Bill Bascom moved the business "down the corner and up a story" to 100 N. Ninth St. the following year, renaming it Another Story.
Furphy took ownership of the shop in 1997, eventually moving it to the West End Theatre District seven and a half years ago to get away from crime in center city.
Another Story, which accepts only cash and checks, is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day except Thursdays (11 a.m. to 8 p.m.) and Sundays (noon to 5 p.m.). Info: 610-435-4433.
Other news from Allentown's West End Theatre District include the Jan. 7 opening of Mystickal Moon, "a shop for all your spiritual needs," and the upcoming opening of Elizabeth Anthony's Salon in its new digs at 1727 W. Liberty St. The strip mall also recently welcomed Allentown Fairgrounds Farmers Market transplant Amy's Sweets and Treats.
Mystickal Moon, which fills the space left vacant by All Things Mystickal and Magical, sells incense, crystals, stones, shrines and homemade magical candles (melted wax creates images that are interpreted). It also offers the services of tarot readers and energy healers.
"It doesn't matter what you believe in, we are here to help," said owner Donna Grunberg, known by her spiritual name, "Momma Donna." Info: 610-821-1108.
Elizabeth Anthony's, which has operated at 12th and Tilghman streets for 10 years, is set to open inside the former Sinfully Delicious space on Feb. 6.
According to owner Elizabeth Strong, the full-service salon (specializing in color) is moving to attain more parking for an increasing clientele. Info: 610-437-8400.
In downtown Allentown, Baby Got Que, a new barbecue takeout restaurant, held a soft opening Jan. 9 at 851 Jackson St. The 570-square-foot space formerly housed an auto-detailing business.
Husband and wife owners Jay King and Mary Shearin, who moved to Allentown from Montgomeryville about five years ago, decided it was time to open their own restaurant after years of "cooking for others."