About Raven Used books

about raven used books
John Petrovato, owner of Raven Used Books, has been a bookseller for over 20 years. His first shop was the Montague Bookmill in Montague, MA, which he co-owned with David Lovelace from 1992 to 2000. Located in a nineteenth century grist mill, The Bookmill was a beautiful, expansive store that stocked over 50,000 books and provided a full service cafe. Featured numerous times in the New York Times, Boston Globe and Yankee magazine, the shop also hosted both local and national acts in its performance space.

In 1995, John Petrovato, David Lovelace and Betsy Frederick opened up Raven Used Books in Northampton, MA, followed by the second Raven in Amherst, MA a few years later. Both these shops had strong selections of general, literary and scholarly titles. In 2005 the two stores became separate business entities, and John moved the Amherst shop to Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA, excited about the possibility of running a bookstore in a premier academic location.

The Harvard Square shop opened in month 2005 at 52 JFK street. Specializing in scholarly and literary titles, the store quickly obtained a loyal and enthusiastic customer base. Hundreds of books come through the doors every day, sold by professors, grad students, and the general literary community. This turn over of 1200+ books every week keeps the stock at Raven Used Books fresh and exciting.

In 2009, John began to search for a Boston location for a second store. Despite trepidation among the general public about the declining state of the retail book business, John felt a quality bookstore in a prime location could do well. In March, 2010, he opened Raven Used Books on the best known shopping street in New England– Newbury Street in Boston. Located between Gloucester and Fairfield streets, The Raven has already established itself as a prime tourist destination as well as local community bookstore. As in Harvard Square, neighbors and visitors alike were excited to see a privately owned local business open up in an area where chain stores have become more prevalent. In 2011, the store began hosting readings and book launches, including luminary speakers such as Noam Chomsky. In its first year of business, the book store sold almost 50,000 books. The Boston store was awarded “Best of the New” by the Boston Globe in 2010 and both shops won the Boston Phoenix’s readers poll for “Best Used Bookstore” for 2011.

As opposed to many other booksellers in the country, John Petrovato believes that the market, though struggling, is still strong and plans to open up additional shops in the following years. As opposed to most bookstores who are putting more and more of their stock on-line and/or closing their doors, The Raven has very few books on line, as John prefers to have the best stock on the shelves for local customers rather than to be sold to anonymous buyers around the world. It is a practice that has helped build a loyal customer base and one of the strongest stock of books available on the shelves of a used bookstore.

Although his focus are now in the Boston and Cambridge area, John still has an interest and love for the Western Massachusetts book scene. He stocks the books for sale at Pages Coffee Bar and Bookstore, in the picturesque small town of Conway in the Pioneer Valley. The bookstore stocks about 8,000 well priced books in a nineteenth century Masonic temple on the corner of Rt. 116 and Shelburne Falls road. (Pages also has, hands down, some of the best coffee drinks around!) And finally, John’s former business partner, Betsy Frederick, continues to own and run the original Raven Used Books, now a Northampton landmark, and has opened an exciting second location in Greenfield MA.

Boston Globe article on John Petrovato, Jon Strymish’s new bookshop

Jon Strymish getting back into books


Boston Articles
May 30, 2012|Mark Shanahan
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Some people never learn. People like Jon Strymish. Just a few months after selling the New England Mobile Book Fair, the Newton bookstore owned by his family for over 50 years, Strymish and two partners have plans to open another bookstore, this one in Portsmouth, N.H. “I guess I’m not very bright,” joked Strymish. “I don’t know anything else.” He’s working withDavid Lovelace and John Petrovato to create Portsmouth Book and Bar. As the name suggests, the 2,800-square-foot bookstore will have a bar and feature occasional live entertainment. “We’ve taken a hard look at bookselling’s future,” the group explained in its application to the city. “Great titles are not enough. Pretty views are not enough. Frankly a good cup of coffee isn’t enough. So we’ve added beer, wine, and sophisticated snacks. . . . We promise to push past the all-too-familiar hybrid of stale muffins and paperbacks and create bookstore cafe with an old-world ambience — a literary salon offering espresso, craft beers, wine, and creative small plates. There will be no Formica, no paperback pulp, no french fries.” But why Portsmouth? “Because it’s groovy and there’s a lot of foot traffic,” Strymish said. “But groovy is the key.” (He also signed a non-compete agreement with Tom Lyons, the new owner of the New England Mobile Book Fair, which prohibits him from opening a store within 60 miles of Newton.) Lovelace and Petrovato are not new to the business. They are former owners of the Montague Bookmill, and Petrovato also owns Raven Used Books in Harvard Square. (Interestingly, the current owner of the Montague Bookmill is screenwriter Susan Shilliday, whose credits include “Legends of the Fall” and several episodes of “thirtysomething.”) With a little luck, Strymish said, the new place will be open around Labor Day.

Raven Used Books Boston, MA. opened in March, 2010

the raven in boston

Opened in March, 2010, this location stocks about 17,000 books in a beautiful space in the heart of the Newbury Street shopping district. Awarded “Best of the New” by the Boston Globe for 2010, this shop has strong sections in both scholarly and general categories, especially Fiction, Poetry, American History, Art, Architecture, Photography, Philosophy, Music, and Religion.
In addition, this location also has the sections Children’s Books and Cookbooks. This location adds about 1000 books to the shelves every week, and books are priced between 50% to 80% off the cover price.
john petrovato

john petrovato, proprietor

Noam Chomsky speaks at John Petrovato’s Raven Used Books in Boston, MA.

Capital and Discontents Event with Noam Chomsky

On March 22, Noam Chomsky joined Sasha Lilley for the Boston launch ofCapital and Its Discontents, which features a conversation with him about workers councils and life after capitalism. The event took place at Raven Used Books on Newbury Street, which was packed to the rafters.

Sasha Lilley and Noam Chomsky
Photo credits: Martin Voelker

Sasha Lilley at Raven Books; Photo: Tatsu Ikeda

Noam Chomsky; Photo credit: Tatsu Ikeda

Noam Chomsky and Sasha Lilley; Photo credit: Tatsu Ikeda