No longer involved with the Northampton location…..though we are still friends and have the same name. Betsy does a great job with this shop.
Sad to hear that Schoenhofs bookstore is closing. One of the oldest bookstores in the country that specializes in foreign language titles.
After 161 years of business, Schoenhof’s Foreign Books plans to permanently shutter its doors on March 25.Schoenhof’s, the self-described “oldest and largest foreign language-only bookstore in the United States,” was originally founded in Boston in 1856. The store moved to Cambridge in the early 1900s and has been at its Mount Auburn St. location in Harvard Square since 1983.
In a press release announcing the closure, Daniel Eastman, Schoenhof’s general director, wrote that high rents in the Square and competition from online booksellers prompted the store to close.
“In recent years a number of independent businesses have been driven out of the Square by the high rents, and Schoenhof’s finds itself joining their ranks,” Eastman wrote.
Eastman said that while the closing is not ideal, he understands that Schoenhof’s had to shutter its brick and mortar location.
“Our landlord has been quite helpful with us, quite helpful and supportive, but there is only so much that they can possibly do,” Eastman said. “There comes a point when what they’re ready to concede and what we’re able to give can’t meet.”
For several decades, Schoenhof’s has rented its location from the Spee Club.
Denise A. Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association, said that consumers should prioritize buying from local businesses like Schoenhof’s to prevent their closure.
“You can’t expect that bookstores or newspaper stores or retailers of any kind will survive if people continue to buy online. That’s just the reality,” Jillson said.
David A. Gevarter ’19 said he was disappointed to hear the news. As a Romance Languages and Literature concentrator who speaks English, Hebrew, Spanish, French, and German, Schoenhof’s was his go-to bookstore.
“I’m a big language nerd, so I am very excited to be able to go into a store where they have a couple hundred languages available,” Gevarter said.
Gevarter also praised Schoenhof’s staff.
“I think the staff for sure was one of the best parts in addition to having such an amazing collection of books,” he said. “The staff there is incredibly knowledgable and very helpful. Even if you don’t know what you’re looking for, or if you’re just browsing, they are very helpful helping you find something that you’d be interested in.”
In the press release, Eastman said Schoenhof’s will maintain its online store as a way to continue to fulfill its mission.
“The mission of Schoenhof’s has always been to provide access to the larger world through language learning materials and literature in the original,” wrote Eastman in the press release. “Given the present political and social climate, that mission becomes ever more meaningful.”
Eastman said the website will offer a wide variety of foreign books at a low cost.
“We’d like to be able to take advantage, in a way, of having, say, the reduced expenses of our retail location, and invest that into having an amazing website that offers a complete experience, a complete customer experience as close to actually being in a bookstore without being able to be there, as well as offering the lowest possible pricing,” Eastman said.
Schoenhof’s has been a longtime member of the Harvard Square Business Association and is active in community events, particularly the Bookish Ball and Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebration, according to Jillson.
“It has been so lovely because we clearly get visitors from across the globe, and for us to be able to send them to Schoenhof’s to get a book in Portuguese or a book in French or a book in Spanish is just a delight, and something that is very unique and really will be a loss for Harvard Square,” Jillson said.
Jillson emphasized the importance of going out and buying from local retailers.
“It’s how much they care, and if they care, they will think twice before they go to Amazon to buy something,” Jillson said. “If they don’t walk out of their dorm room or out of their home and into the Square and into a store to support that store—and I don’t care whether it’s a local, regional, national, or international—if you don’t do that, the vibrancy of the Square or of any business district is jeopardized.”
Though Eastman said he is sad to see Schoenhof’s brick and mortar location go, he said he has high hopes for its online future.
“We really appreciate the support that we received from the students at Harvard over the last, my God, over 90 years that we’ve been in Cambridge. And we just hope that they’ll continue to visit us online,” Eastman said.
–Staff writer Alison W. Steinbach can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @alisteinbach.
—Staff writer Katherine E. Wang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A woman in a century-old straw hat, sitting with a needle and thread, warns me “the sun can crisp you up.” Nearby another woman, speaking at first in Hebrew, says, “My husband came from Ukraine in 1903. I moved here in 1904.” Afterward I chat with a cooper with sharply parted white hair. He’s proud of a recent deal he made: a barrel for two brooms.
No one ever tells you how to respond to this stuff. You know, these sorts of costumed role-players or living historians. Here at Strawbery Banke—a charming collection of a few dozen colonial-era buildings in Portsmouth, New Hampshire—I’m finding it’s rewarding to just play along.
Settled in the early 1600s, Portsmouth might be America’s greatest small town. The port town was built on the Piscataqua River for exclusively the king’s commerce. On the wharves, workers built British ships—ships later used against the colonies in the Revolutionary War. In the years since, it simply never expanded like Boston, or even Portland, Maine, just north. (The tidal river isn’t ideal for constant comings and goings, one local tells me.) Still, there’s lobster and sand, history and theater, New Hampshire’s best restaurants and lots of beer. And walking by 18th- and 19th-century town houses along its lively cobbled center, it’s hard to believe only 21,000 people call it home.
Opened in 1958, the Strawbery Banke Museum is considered the first urban renewal project in the United States to favor preservation over demolition. (“Its impact ripped through the preservation movement like a sound wave,” Linda Landry writes in her 2003 book, Classic New Hampshire.)
Frankly, I enjoy its colonial-era punch of the few dozen buildings more than I expected. The Shapley-Drisco House is a time-warp peek split evenly between its different incarnations: One side of the house is made up like a home in the 1790s, the other like the 1950s.
And in the Pitt Tavern here I learn about Portsmouth’s other big passion. A gray-haired man with white loafers and a crimson shirt laments to me how New Hampshire used to be “number one in beer consumption” (42.2 gallons per capita in 2013) but recently fell behind North Dakota.
“That’s only because of all the petroleum going on there,” he says with some bitterness.
Yes, beer is big in Portsmouth. A handful of breweries line the winding central streets (my hotel, the Ale House Inn, is a former brewery), while the bigger-name Smuttynose and Redhook breweries are within 20 minutes’ drive. One of my favorite spots for a pint in the center is Book and Bar, a used bookstore in the former U.S. Custom House that’s now licensed to sell microbrews.
On a back alley, Earth Eagle Brewings is a compact bar-eatery with playful artwork and nine tables that quickly fill with locals. The focus is experimentation by beer, mostly local microbrews. The Spruce Bringsteen is a sweet pale ale, while the Beltane, an amber gruit, has “a real barnyard quality, think blue cheese,” says my waitress.
I get her barnyard description once I try it, and their “figgy pig” special (a flatbread sandwich with Gruyère, bacon, porchetta, and fig jam) is my favorite meal I’ve had in New Hampshire so far.
Portsmouth’s a great walking town. On my first day, I walk down quiet streets with Georgian homes (five windows on the second floor, two on either side of the front door) and stop in Sheafe Street Books, complete with a “pirates” section. The owner, an upstate New York transplant, sends me to nearby Peirce Island, where I see people wandering the riverside trails.
In the morning I join a walking tour led by Jeff Thomson, a local from just across the river in Kittery, Maine. One stop leads us to something I missed on my first day’s ramble. A short walk from John Paul Jones’s old home, the African Burying Ground is the site of a slave cemetery only discovered during road construction in 2003, and it is now a moving memorial. Part of it features eight faceless figures. “I stand for those who feel anger,” one reads. “I stand for those who find dignity in these bones,” reads another.
Thomson notes, “We don’t always like talking about it, but we must remember slavery existed here too.”
Another big draw, of course, is the coastline. New Hampshire’s doesn’t last long—only 13 miles (21 kilometers)—but is lined with sand and rocky beaches that draw sunbathers and surfers. Quieter Rye, just outside Portsmouth, is home to mansions you can visit. For me, the best part of the coast is the lobster. You find it everywhere, at fish shacks on the beach and restaurants in town.
A friend of a friend, Robert Nudd, invites me for a lobster dinner at home with his wife, Sheila. His family has been here since the 1600s, and he’s been fishing, sometimes for 60 days straight, for four decades. His crew sometimes ribs him for holding onto pre-digital technology, he says, and he can’t imagine doing anything else. Today he’s caught dozens of lobster, and is cooking up way too many for our dinner.
Lobster is big up and down New Hampshire’s wee coastline. Shacks and sit-down restaurants boil up fresh catches.
Get that? Portsmouth is a lively colonial town that’s escaped most traveler radars. It has beaches and beer and theater, and its lobster is delicious.
Stay: Ale House Inn has compact boutique rooms within walking distance of all the center shops, restaurants, theaters, and sites.
See: Strawbery Banke is a district of a few dozen homes with costumed role-players. The $19.50 admission lasts for two consecutive days. The bulk of the sandy beaches are in Hampton, within a 20-minute drive. They get busy.
Do: Discover Portsmouth hosts several themed walking tours. For $12, I got a lot out of the 60-minute daily walking tour. You can kayak by islands in the Piscataqua; Portsmouth Kayak Adventures rents kayaks and offers tours.
Willing to brave the brutal cold, snowy slippery streets or the crushing despair toward the world that most of us suffer with these days? If so, we picked up a few amazing collections over the past week. A large Classics library will start to come out today (there will be over 100 Loeb’s by next week). We also are starting to put out an amazing advanced Mathematics and Philosophy collection. Also picked up some nice art and literature books.
Nice write up in Portland-based Maine magazine.
The second I turned 15-and-a-half (legal driving age in New Hampshire), my friends and I went to Portsmouth, the cool place to hang out away from our parents. It’s been a few years since then, but I’m happy to find Portsmouth hasn’t lost its cool factor.
Portsmouth is often compared to Portland — maybe Portland’s cute little sister who really likes indie rock, french toast and Rocky Horror. The two have a lot in common: They both love the ocean, beer and twisty old streets. They’re both historic, walkable and filled with art stores that have to satisfy locals and tourists. Portsmouth has so much that we’re going to have a full guide up soon*. Plus, at only 50 minutes away, Portsmouth is a lot closer to Portlanders than Rockland, Bar Harbor, Bangor and most of the rest of Maine.
You could spend an entire day window-shopping in Portsmouth, and if you go you probably will. Poke around the book stores, cafes, thrift shops (there are lots of them, some with sequined pants, just sayin’), breweries and historic neighborhoods or catch a show/movie at the beautiful Portsmouth Music Hall.
DESTINATION: Downtown Portsmouth, NH, about 50 minutes from Portland.
HOW MUCH: $9 for a flight of beer.
WHO: You, probably. Portsmouth is best if you have another reason to go, like if you are already planning to catch a concert.
WHY: It’s close by, quirky and super walkable.
WHEN: Autumn and spring are nice because everything is open, but the tourists have migrated elsewhere.
If you go, here are some places to check out:
Every little city needs that killer coffee-beer-books-wifi combo space. In Portsmouth, it’s Book & Bar.
After some window-shopping in downtown’s Market Square, this is a nice little (air-conditioned/heated – pick your season) respite. You can order a local beer with a grilled cheese (with hot pepper jelly) or coffee and a cookie while perusing the Pollan, Atwood and Nabokov hardcovers in the sale section. A few New Hampshire beers (or ciders) are usually on tap, plus some other New England breweries, lesser-known West Coast brews get a couple taps too.
It can get pretty busy. The cafe doesn’t offer wifi on the weekends to cut down on all those aspiring novelists who might otherwise spend all Saturday morning at the counter with their MacBooks. Darn aspiring novelists.
Book & Bar is at 40 Pleasant St. It’s open every day 9 a.m.-10 p.m., open until midnight on weekends. More info at bookandbar.com.
“Good stuff — not cheap” is an understatement, or overstatement, depending. It’s the sign I saw at about 93 Daniel St. I was headed to get a cappuccino at the German caffe next door (Kaffee Vonsolln — it was great, btw) when I saw Emilio come down his steps and unchain his sign. When I asked if he was open, he began to test me. He pulled out a drawing of a mouse in a white tuxedo with the caption, “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
“What’s this from? This fine drawing with watercoloring?”
“How did you know that? Do you know where the word ‘hearth’ comes from,” he asked.
“No,” I said.
He gave me an etymology lesson.
“Are you open?” I asked.
“No. I have to clean up first. Go get a coffee and then I’ll let you in. You know, in Germany you don’t order the coffee. You buy some chocolate, sit down and begin shaving it. They’ll bring you a cappuccino. You put the chocolate on and (smacked his lips).”
After a cappuccino next door (perhaps not coincidentally, with chocolate shavings), I headed back to find Emilio hadn’t cleaned up (he apologized), but was instead arguing with a customer. No, he would not sell that. No, he can’t do $10 for that.
“She won’t leave me alone,” he told me about another customer who was trying to buy … anything, it seemed. I poked around the Audrey Hepburn mugs, the $150 heavy cast iron dutch oven (one of the only priced items in the store) and the stuffed animals before finding something useful. I snagged a small hand-held panini press (shaped like two scallops) that you might bring camping and a chess grater. I pulled $5 from my pocket and handed Emilio the money.
“Oh no no no,” he said, taking the aluminum (tin?) camping panini press from me. “What do you want to do with this? What do you think this is for?”
“Paninis? Maybe for making eggs when I go camping,” I said.
“This is very old, valuable,” he said, “you put your bread here, then your filling here, then put it over heat,” he said. “I can do it for $15.”
“Sorry,” I said, putting the money back in my pocket.
“Take this for example,” he said, taking a mashed potato hand-masher from a jar near me. “You buy this at Wal-Mart it will cost you $7. But it will break and you’ll need to buy four of them in your life. You buy this one for $15 and you’ll only need one.”
“True,” I said.
He shook my hand, asked my name and said goodbye.
Emilio’s yard sale store doesn’t have a name. I suspect he lives there. I suspect he won’t sell you anything. If you go, bring cash and your Latin books — he’ll appreciate it.
Emilio’s place is near Kaffee Vonsolln (79 Daniel St.), doesn’t have hours, probably doesn’t have a phone, no website and no name.
After all that haggling, how about some serenity? Six minutes (walking) from Emilio’s yard sale store is the ever-pretty Trial Gardens in Prescott Park. The park is green and occasionally has free music (every Wednesday night) or theater (most weekend days) or movies (Monday nights). But it also has wharfs where you can watch the Terns dive (or the teenagers make out, as the case may be).
You’re now near Strawberry Banke (an outdoor living history museum) and State Street, which has a bunch of shops. Pickwick’s Mercantile has gifts like tea, bracelets, cologne, hand-made candles, etc — everything beautifully arranged, right down to the store’s color-coordinated bookshelf, offering a rainbow of spines. There’s also a cupcake shop, a dog boutique, The Red Door Lounge (for a late-night drink and some music every Monday night).
Prescott Park is on Marcy Street. It’s free. All the program listings are available at prescottpark.org.
*Don’t worry, we will have The Friendly Toast in the guide.
Get out of dodge (at least for a little while) with a mini adventure. These excursions can be done in a day – sometimes an afternoon – and will hopefully lead you to places you’ve never been. This is Maine, after all, and we all need some adventuring.
Known for the tax-free shopping, the waterfront views, and the historic sites, the city of Portsmouth sits just 60 miles north of Boston. Nestled near the mouth of the Piscataqua River, it stretches 16.8 square miles. The population is 21,233.
The history: Settled in 1623, Portsmouth prides itself on being the nation’s third oldest city. It served as an epicenter for the rail and sea industries and was a focal point on the Eastern seaboard until the late 1800s. The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (across the river in Maine) was established in 1800 as the country’s first naval shipyard. Today, the region is noted for its beautiful historic charm and many attractions. For example, the USS Albacore Museum is a retired 1953 US Navy submarine, giving visitors a glimpse at life on the water. TheStrawberry Banke Museum is another popular family site. The outdoor museum covers 10 acres and traces Portsmouth’s earliest English settlement’s history through the many historic houses and exhibits.
The shopping: Downtown Portsmouth is lined with cute boutiques and shops.. Walk down Congress Street and circle around the many side streets for a variety of art, antiques, clothing, local goodies, books, fine jewelry, and more. Market Square is located in the center of downtown and is the start of many local walking tours. Visit the galleries, browse the old-fashioned shops, and explore 0ne of the many 17th-century buildings. Tugboat Alley is considered a local tradition, with nautical-themed gifts and collectibles for all ages. The Book and Bar is located in the Old Custom House, offering a relaxed, no-media atmosphere with a wide selection of used books and small cafe. The best part about shopping in Portsmouth? No sales tax.
The harbor: The seaport city overlooks the mouth of the beautiful Piscataqua River, a short, wide river that divides New Hampshire and Maine. Take a guided tour or walk solo along thePortsmouth Harbor Trail. The path passes more than 70 historic and scenic sites and provides a taste of the local charm and culture. Another great way to take in the scenes is by boat. Board one of the daily scheduledPortsmouth Harbor Cruises, narrated tours where guests learn about local wildlife, folklore, and waterway history.
Prescott Park: Established by former resident, Josie F. Prescott, this gorgeous waterfront attraction provides a free and accessible public park to residents and visitors. Stretching along the river from State Street to Mechanic Street, Prescott Parkis over 10 acres of lush flower gardens, walkways, seating, and grass areas designated for recreation. Perfect for a picnic visit. The “formal garden” showcases fountains, tree-lined walkways, a flower wall, and a rose garden. In the summer months, the park is home to the Prescott Park Art Festival, a series of outdoor musical performances, plays, and a juried art show.
The food: Whether you’re in the mood for fine dining or a casual bite, Portsmouth has a ton of tasty options for any foodie. The city is home to dozens of restaurants featuring just about every cuisine imaginable.Lexie’s Joint is a laidback burger joint with a twist, serving up classic burger recipies or a make-your-own burger option. It also has a variety of grilled items and melts. Shio is another popular pick, featuring classic Japanese fare from sushi to Shumai. A great go-to is the Friendly Toast. Located on Congress Street, the family-friendly restaurant serves breakfast all day and a range of tasty and unique sandwiches and main dishes.