To paraphrase Mark Twain, rumors of the death of Chester County Book & Music Company in West Chester, Pa., were greatly exaggerated. Next Tuesday, September 3, Kathy Simoneaux Fortney will reopen the bookstore, which closed in February, just a few doors down from the location that it occupied for 25 years in the West Goshen Shopping Center. The new store will have a slightly different name, too, Chester County Book Company.
Last August, local media called attention to the fact that Fortney, who founded the store with her late husband Bob Simoneaux in 1982, wanted to downsize and was renting month-to-month. By the time she lost her lease, Fortney still hadn’t found the right space. “Last year, nearing the end of our lease, I scouted many locations within a three-mile radius but couldn’t find anything suitable. I was very discouraged,” says Fortney. But when a nearby tenant moved out of a 6,000 sq. ft. space, she ran the numbers and thought that it would work. “I am so grateful to Paz & Associates for helping me make the decision and then later designing the space,” adds Fortney. “We think it’s lovely and a whole different look from what we had before.”
At the height of its success, the 30,000 sq. ft. bookstore stocked 125,000 titles and 1,500 magazines and had a significant music section and a cafe. The new store is considerably slimmer. Fortney says that she’s planning to focus on fiction, children’s, history, and biography. “We are emphasizing our stronger categories,” she says, “and shrinking a number of under-performing ones, which in the past we had to keep ‘bulked up’ to keep our vast space filled.” The music department is gone from the store and the name. Former department managers Eryn and Jason Schafer-Valerius spun off a separate music store in April, Electric Avenue Music.
Chester County will still have plenty of room for events and will kick off with one with Sandra Boynton for her new book-and-CD Frog Trouble the weekend after it reopens. In addition to a “Frogtacular” Day, the store has upcoming signings with Bruce Mowday, author of Pickett’s Charge; Larry Kane, When They Were Boys; and T. A. Barron, Atlantis Rising. So far, says Fortney, “customer support is strong, and we expect a great response next week.”