Porter Square Books sold, President Obama disappoints indies
Porter Square Books, which went up for sale in March, has new, local owners. Cambridge couple David Sandberg and Dina Mardell — who met in a bookstore in the ’80s — finalized a deal to buy the business on Monday.
Mardell told us that she has faith in the future of indie bookstores, especially around Cambridge. “What’s true is that when you look at this business, it’s thriving and it’s viable,” she told us shortly after the sale was announced. “We wouldn’t have been able to do this otherwise. We believe that people in Cambridge and Somerville are committed to this bookstore.”
The duo, who are in their 50s (Sandberg is a lawyer, Mardell has worked in education), will take over from founding owner Jane Dawson and her partners, who’ve agreed to stick around and help with the transition. The first reading under the new ownership will be Douglas Foster, who’ll talk about “After Mandela: The Struggle for Freedom in Post-Apartheid South Africa” on Wednesday. Mardell says she and Sandberg will have an official party for the community on Oct. 13. Porter Square Books is a favorite of bestseller Neil Gaiman, who had his only local event with the store in July.
In other indie bookstore news, this was President Obama’s first Martha’s Vineyard vacation that did not include a stop at a local bookstore. Not surprisingly, writers, independent book peddlers, and others who view Amazon’s business practices with suspicion noticed that Obama didn’t make his regular shopping stop, and they’re dismayed. “Congratulations to #Amazon on buying #Obama’s loyalty,” tweeted local author Chris Abouzeid. “1st Martha’s Vineyard trip that Pres has not visited a bookstore. #beachreadfail.”
In his three previous visits to the Vineyard as president, Obama’s itinerary included an outing to Bunch of Grapes Books in Vineyard Haven. Not this time. What changed? It’s hard to say, but in the days just before his vacation, the president did pay a visit to an Amazon warehouse in Chattanooga, Tenn., which is about to add 7,000 new employees. Many independent booksellers were not pleased by that, as they view Amazon as an ogre hellbent on destroying small businesses.
Susan Mercier, manager of Edgartown Books on Martha’s Vineyard, said Monday she was disappointed the president didn’t stop by. “We were really hoping he’d come in,” she said. “We, and Bunch of Grapes, are a tremendous pillar and backbone of our towns. As small businesses, the exposure is a great thing so we were bummed that he chose not to come in.”