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Lehigh Valley Live: What Moravian Book Shop will look like when it changes hands

June 12th, 2018 |

Written by Pamela Sroka-Holzmann for Lehigh Valley Live

The Moravian Book Shop is readying to change hands in coming days and the newly owned store will be up and running in time for the next school year, according to the shop’s board president.

Rick Santee said patrons currently will find a little discombobulation as shelves are moved and things are being changed around. Moravian College in April announced it would be buying the nation’s longest continuously operating bookstore from the Moravian Church Northern Province.

The shop at 428 Main St. will become the college’s primary bookstore and be managed by Barnes and Noble, which currently handles the day-to-day operations of the existing college bookstore in the Haupert Union Building on the north campus.

Historical fixtures, such as five pieces the book shop were loaned from the original Simon Rau Drugstore in the 1950s, were being moved Tuesday afternoon from the bookstore.

The artifacts include four counter-tops and a mahogany bookcase previously used as display counters at the Moravian Book Shop. The drugstore was housed in what is now Musselman Jewelers.


“We are so happy to have these pieces from the Simon Rau Drugstore, which was the oldest continuous drugstore in operation in the U.S. having been founded by the Moravians in 1743, back in our care,” said Charlene Donchez-Mowers, president of Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites.


“They were used and appreciated in the Moravian Book Shop for over 50 years and will continue to be used now at several of our historic buildings at Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites,” she added.

Donchez-Mowers said two of the counters will be relocated to the historic Single Sisters’ House and the mahogany cabinet will be moved to the 1741 Gemeinhaus, also known as the Moravian Museum of Bethlehem, both on West Church Street.

A third counter will go to the 1810 Goundie House and the fourth counter will be placed in the Historic Bethlehem Visitor Center, both in the 500 block of Main Street.


All the artifacts will be used for display at each location, she said.

‘Seamless transition’

Santee said things might appear “confusing,” but promised the community a seamless transition.


Employees of the store’s gift shop said they were told the change of ownership would occur June 18, but Santee said there is no “drop dead” deadline for the transition.


“The transfer of ownership between the Moravian Church Northern Province and Moravian College is underway now,” he said. “It’s not going to be on one date it’s the Moravian Book Shop owned by the Moravian Church Northern Province and the next day owned by Moravian College.”


However, he did expect everything in good shape by Musikfest in August and running smoothly in time for the next school year, he said.


Santee said if folks think the new store will resemble a typical Barnes & Noble big box store, they are misinformed. Moravian instead is taking its inspiration from the College of William and Mary’s campus bookstore in downtown Williamsburg, Va., in which both are managed by Barnes & Noble, he described.

A third counter will go to the 1810 Goundie House and the fourth counter will be placed in the Historic Bethlehem Visitor Center, both in the 500 block of Main Street.

All the artifacts will be used for display at each location, she said.

Asked if a Starbucks or similar coffee chain would be constructed inside Moravian Book Shop, Santee said, “I would be stunned if they put the Starbucks in.”


There will be some construction work going on outside the building and renovating in neighboring stores once vacant, Santee said.


What’s leaving are both the Colony Meadery and Bone Appetit, a dog bakery and pet shop, next to the Moravian Book Shop. In fact, Bone Appetit already shut its doors earlier this month when its lease expired and had prior plans before the sale to do so, Santee said.


Colony Meadery CEO Greg Heller-LaBelle decided to change the business’ location to South Side Bethlehem and not renew his lease, expiring July 31, Santee said. The meadery, however, does plan to sell goods at Musikfest and during the Celtic Classic beyond the lease expiration, he said.

What’s staying is Musselman Jewelers, which is continuing its lease and owned by Bethlehem Area Moravians. All three businesses, Santee said, were always independent of the book store.


Asked what might be filling the vacancies left by Colony Meadery and Bone Appetit, Santee expects the college will be looking at a food service. College President Bryon Grigsby previously said the college is working with Barnes & Noble and its food service provider Sodexo to evaluate all current operations.

Moravian culture

Despite sales of 50 to 65 percent off on all chocolates, small gift items and gourmet snacks at Moravian Book Shop on Tuesday, Santee expects some gifts, especially items reflecting Moravian culture, to remain on shelves.

A book shop employee who answered the phone Tuesday no books or Christmas items are on sale.

“Moravian College does not have that (big box retailer) vision,” Santee stressed. “They want to be part of the community on the north side. I think people will be pleasantly surprised.”


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