Shakespeare is coming to Philadelphia.
Not the man – Shakespeare & Co., the super-bookstore/café/publishing center. The company has announced that a Philly Shakespeare & Co. is to open this summer (date not yet specified) at the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, at 1632 Walnut St. It will be the first Shakespeare & Co. outside Manhattan.
The franchise that began in 1982, and has found success at its Lexington Avenue location, is expanding the franchise and the brand. This year it plans to open two new stores and a stand-alone café in Manhattan, plus the planned Philly store, with further expansion in 2019.
Why is this bookstore especially cool? Because it is. It has been a well-known hangout for bibliophiles for decades.
There's a local feeling, and that's not by random. Dane Neller, CEO of Shakespeare & Co., says that cultivating local and community ties "is especially important for a bookstore to stay relevant. We seek to create an atmosphere as well as a book selection – and even a café selection – that reflects the neighborhood. We try to stay true to the architecture and the history of the neighborhood. Our staff will be from Philly – we're not carpetbaggers, our staff will live in the area and be part of the community." Inventory is selected on both a centralized basis (a core based on nationwide buying patterns) and localized buying.
Among the store's community ties is City Councilman Allan Domb, who is both a shareholder and a landlord.
Shakespeare & Co. combines the richly stocked stacks of the brick-and-mortar bookstore (with an old-fashioned, laid-back, browse-the-stacks feeling) with in-store print-on-demand technology. The Espresso Book Machine can print copies of around seven million public-domain titles, or self-published books by local writers, or personalized children's books, in store while you wait.
That, too, has its community-based side: "If you're a local author, memoirist, or poet," Neller says, "or even a child doing a writing project, you can come in, have your book printed, even have a book talk. We want to be a source of expression for both writers and readers."
And while you wait, you can browse books or have a coffee and a sandwich or pastry at the in-store café, a much-loved aspect of Shakespeare & Co.