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Updated: Re-Save Webster’s Group Raises Questions About Management

Nearly three and a half years since its last re-opening, a group of former employees are concerned Webster’s Bookstore and Cafe might have to close its doors. After shuttering for the first time in 2010, the State College community rallied around the local bookstore to fund a $150,000 loan for the reopening. When asked about the closure in 2010, store manager Elaine Meder-Wilgus attributed the inability to pay many months of rent the economic downturn. The debt proved to be too much in July 2010 and, according to a group of former employees, the store looks to be in jeopardy yet again.

These employees created the Committee to Re-save Webster’s, which claims debt, loss of income, management issues, and public health concerns have all led to the downfall of the bookstore. Webster’s is estimated to be roughly $4,000 behind on the loan funded by the community to reopen the business in April 2012. According to the Committee, the business also owes approximately $28,000 on back taxes to the Pennsylvania Treasury, $16,000 in back rent, and $10,000 in consignment payments.

According to the Committee to Re-save Webster’s report, one of the bathroom sinks does not drain. Customers are asked instead to use hand sanitizer to avoid the situation, creating public health and safety concerns. The report also cites the neglect of proper food handling in the kitchen area, among other concerns.

Management issues are also cited as a large part of why Webster’s is experiencing downfall. Employees are allegedly hired without job descriptions or significant training. Blank checks have reportedly been found around the bookstore, along with blank check stubs, and other miscellaneous items. Book purchases and sales are reportedly unorganized and, at times, have induced profit losses for the company.

In a video released (and recently taken down) by the Committee to Re-save Webster’s, a committee member says this is not an attack on Webster’s management or the business, but instead an initiative to get the public involved in an effort to save the community-favorite. The member goes on to describe Webster’s as a “vital community asset,” and one the community should not abandon.

Also outlined in the report from the Committee to Re-save Webster’s is a detailed explanation of what needs to be done to recover the business. The Committee outlines plans to reestablish a community board, which was originally constructed and disbanded immediately following Webster’s first closure. The Committee also intends to propose employment and management changes, install new cash registers which will be capable of keeping up with modern-day sales services, integrate debt payoff plans to fix the financial situation, and institute public health and safety changes to insure customer satisfaction.

The Committee to Re-save Webster’s website was recently taken down after it was served with a cease and desist. The Committee is asking for the public’s support in their cause to bring this issue to light and to re-save Webster’s Bookstore and Cafe from closing its doors once again.

Editors note: A previous version of this story stated several of the Committee to Re-Save Webster’s claims as fact without properly attributing the claims to the Committee. We apologize for the error and have corrected language in this story to reflect those claims.

About the Author

Matt Coleman

Matt Coleman is a writer for Onward State. His hometown is North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, a little under an hour from Pittsburgh. He is a sophomore majoring in Natural Resource Engineering in Biological Engineering. Please e-mail questions and comments to [email protected] Also, follow him on Twitter @cole_man2.

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