Newspapers are back at Suburban Station, the Septa commuter train center where readers were left without printed news, snacks or paperbacks when the Faber chain shut its stores at either end of the underground concourse at the close of 2017.
"It's busy," hawker Ken Worth told me, setting down his blue bag of papers and filling his lungs. "Inquirer!" he called in his baritone, drawing out the vowels and stressing the two syllables. "Daily News!"
Worth has been moving dozens of papers a shift, said Eduardo Delfin, vice president for circulation at Philadelphia Media LLC, which publishes both papers. Hawking is an ancient trade, but it's difficult to find good hawkers in the current economy, Delfin told me.
This is one case where a human solution beat automation, at least for now. After I wrote about the closings, leasing agents for the station approached the publisher about other ways to get papers to commuters who pour through the station at rush hour. The company looked into setting unmanned vendor boxes in the concourse, but found they weren't allowed. So circulation director Kevin Holmes asked the vendor group that manages direct sales to send in Worth, who specialized in Sunday sales.
The Faber closings "fit with our overall improvement strategy in the Station," says Jackie Buhn, principal and chief executive at AthenianRazak LLC, the Philadelphia firm that manages retail leasing at the concourse. She said she is in talks with new tenants who would likely supply the old stores' customer demands, and more, "but it takes time." Delfin said the company would send more hawkers if needed this Spring.