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Support Webster’s: A Call to Arms

Returns In New Location

As we reported yesterday, Webster’s Bookstore & Cafe is being effectively forced out of its downtown location at 126 S. Allen St by Scott Kresge, who, in conjunction with his mother Catherine Kresge, the owner of the property, declined to renew the current lease. Most signs point towards this being a business decision, one not subject to appeal.

Webster’s also has a location at 434 W. Aaron Drive, which it opened just before the recession began in 2008. Webster’s owner Elaine Meder-Wilgus spoke to State College.com about the circumstances of the landlord’s decision.

[Meder-Wilgus] said that she had already been working to refinance and consolidate Webster’s debt, an effort that would pay the back rent. But Scott Kresge has declined an offer that would have settled that obligation, she said.

Those in attendance at a support rally held last night at Webster’s consider the eviction to be a call to arms, mostly because for them Webster’s isn’t simply a business. It’s a community fixture integral to the culture of downtown State College. And the community is understandably upset.

Talks at Webster’s last night consisted of the three petitions that are currently being circulated. They include,

  • A support petition simply titled “Save Webster’s Bookstore Cafe”
  • Giving/raising money to help support Webster’s
  • Helping move books and records

There is also an online petition, a Facebook group, and a Google Group. In the end, though, it seems that money is what will solve this problem.

It’s a situation that could get worse before it gets better. Because Webster’s seems to have been posting losses in its current location, or at least unable to afford the rent, it is being forced out. However, that location is where most cash flow (80%) was generated, so now Webster’s faces an even more dismal financial future.

Assuming Webster’s does indeed leave its Allen St. digs come the end of July, the first thing Webster’s will need to do is figure out a way to replace that lost revenue. Meder-Wilgus told StateCollege.com that she could see a coffee shop going in at some other storefront downtown and a retail bookstore going up in the suburbs.

But more unconventional action might be necessary. One idea that floated around last night was creating a support fund, a reserve pool of money that Webster’s could dip into during strong economic hardship. This could also be accomplished by soliciting investments from the community at large. Another option explored was borough or other official support of the coffee shop, recognizing the service it provides for both town and gown. If these more lofty ideas are to be attempted, they will have to be discussed with more depth in the next few weeks. But if you just want to show your support for a State College favorite, try going there for a snack or a 50% off book sometime soon.

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