It’s the end of an era as Phoenixville Hospital’s bookstore, the Bookworm, closes its doors for good on Saturday, June 29. The Phoenixville Hospital Auxiliary which runs the Bookworm, will also be coming to an end.
A staple in the community for book lovers, the Bookworm has sold donated books from its Main Street location since 1982. All profits made at the Bookworm have gone to Phoenixville area charities.
News of the closing has been difficult for both customers and employees of the bookstore.
“It’s very heartbreaking for ourselves and for the customers,” said Jaye Force, Bookworm manager. “We have hundreds of stories of people that have been coming here since they were children, and teachers coming here to stock their classrooms.”
President of the Auxiliary Deborah Francis said she wishes the store could remain open.
“We don’t have the ladies to oversee it anymore,” said Francis. “It’s the passing of an era. A lot of hospitals don’t have auxiliaries anymore.”
The Auxiliary is a nonprofit group that originally formed in 1889 for women in Phoenixville who wanted to support efforts that would benefit the hospital, such as fundraising. It has actively continued to serve charities throughout the decades. Made up of volunteers from the community, the Auxiliary has been losing members in recent years due mainly to retirement, which has made operating the Bookworm more difficult.
Built in 1910, the Bookworm building is located next to the hospital in what was originally the home of the chief of Phoenix Steel, H. Ashton Rahn. The Rahn family occupied the home until 1963. It then became the Nurses Residence, and then Project Help (a rehabilitation residence) before it became the Bookworm.
Featuring several different rooms of books to browse through on two floors, there was something for readers of all ages to find. The Bookworm is well organized by the many different types of book genres. Sections include fiction, nonfiction, classics, self-help, science fiction, travel, humor, romance, religion, history, cookbooks, children’s, poetry, fantasy, mystery, short stories and much more. There is also a vintage section with many rare literary treasures.
Force said she would always do comparative research to keep the prices of books affordable and well below anywhere else.
“It was convenient, low price books,” said Francis. “A place to go where people want to hold a book.”
As print books continue to fade in the shadow of modern technology, even the Bookworm has taken a hit.
“Kindle and Nook has hurt us,” said Francis.
Proceeds from book sales originally supported the hospital, but in recent years have gone to support different Phoenixville area charities such as the Senior Center, St. Mary’s Shelter and PACS.
“We gave in the name of the hospital to these other charities,” Francis said.
Currently, all books are being sold for half price. Force said they are hoping to sell all the books by the closing date of June 29.
On a personal level, as a writer, book lover and Phoenixville resident, I’ve long been a fan of the Bookworm. My grandmother, Virginia, a fellow book lover, was a volunteer in its early days. Countless times I have found myself wandering the cozy aisles for hours on end, never knowing what treasure of a book I may find on the next shelf. I’ve always been impressed at the wide array of titles and genres they carried. All my favorite authors were there; Bradbury, Twain and King. Even more to my delight were the obscure finds I’d come across; a first edition B.E. Ellis for just $4, a collection of Lovecraft stories tucked away in an upstairs corner shelf, or a rare selection of Hemingway letters. Each visit to the Bookworm was an exciting adventure in itself, and I have always left the shop with an unexpected armful of surprisingly good books, and a smile on my face. Indeed, the Bookworm has been a longstanding gem in the community and many of us are sad to see it close.