John Henry, principal owner of the Boston Red Sox and owner of the Boston Globe, chose to invest in another Boston-area institution. He became part owner of the Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, which has been in the book business since 1932.
Henry has long had an affinity for independent booksellers and reached out to current owners Jeff Mayersohn and Linda Seamonson early in the pandemic when he heard they were struggling during the shutdown. At the time, the couple decided to continue paying their employees even while the store was closed. And with the loss of income from their litany of literary events – the store typically hosts more than 450 readings a year – they were increasingly worried about the survival of the business.
“We had very few months of cash left,” Mayersohn said.
Eventually, federal government funding and increased customer support helped the bookstore regain some of its position. But by then Mayersohn said talks with Henry had advanced.
“Discussions started out about survival, but very quickly turned into a broader view of what independent bookstores could be,” Mayersohn said.
“It was safe to say that we were sort of kindred spirits,” Henry said. “We hit it off immediately and started talking about the future of bookstores.”
Mayersohn said Henry was an engaged partner, sending him photos and videos of independent bookstores he visited on his travels. And as of this week, Henry made his first investment in the store. It is an independent investment apart from his other business ventures, and Mayersohn and Henry did not disclose a figure. But the two said it would be enough to cover the costs of refurbishing the store’s decades-old facilities and updating its website, which – nearly a decade old – currently does little to help. help Harvard Book Store compete with other larger online booksellers. which will remain unnamed.
Mayersohn also said that Harvard University, which owns the bookstore, has extended its lease until 2033. And while the focus is now on stabilizing the existing store, the plan is to expand. eventually expand beyond Harvard Square.
“We’ve put together a list of wonderful potential locations for bookstores, but we’re very early in that process,” was all Mayersohn would say about future locations.
Henry called owning a bookstore a challenge similar to the one he faced when he bought the Globe, and said he saw both as contributing to the civic good of the city.
“We knew [the Globe] was important to the community. It’s the same here,” he said. “We didn’t want to see [the bookstore] go away.”