Not exactly sure when the last Buck a Book outlet/location closed but I’m always missing it, especially this time of year when I’m hunting and purchasing books and other items for holiday gifts. It was based somewhere I think in Massachusetts and had outlets all over Greater Boston — there was a Cambridge store not exactly in Harvard Square but on Mass. Ave. between Harvard and Central Square. Similar locations were just outside of Copley Square in Boston and Davis Square in Somerville. At one point I think they had some stores in Western Mass., Rhode Island and Albany, NY.
The stores I visited most often were in downtown Boston, there was a store on Tremont Street across from the Park Street T/Subway station and my favorite was located on Court Street, on the corner of Tremont (a few blocks away) on a lower level, you had to walk down a flight of stairs. When the Court Street outlet first opened, I was working as a temporary clerk at the probate court, and I would go on my lunch break to browse. At first all the books were stacked with their spines up on long tables, similar to Boston’s famous discount store: Filene’s Basement (also shuttered and greatly missed). The books were remainders or overstock, the titles repetitive, there was a lot of nonfiction, nutrition and sociology but also some fiction books.
Eventually their stock expanded and the layout eventually changed to include bookcases and a larger range of books including children’s books. The books were mainly a dollar but also they had what they called: “Bit more Books” still a deal and in the range of $2-5. My best find was: The Night Before Christmas illustrated by artist, Grandma Moses. I think I paid $5 for an edition my mother had paid full price for at the Grandma Moses museum when she visited the gift shop.
They added more children’s books, toys, greeting cards, and some novelty gifts including at that time movies on videotape — this was the early 90’s when VHS was still being used and only some folks were using DVDs it was the start of their launch and they were still expensive. My dad loved a VHS documentary on UFO’s I picked up there and one of my cousins, a Hello Kitty video she always watched as a kid especially when she was sick.
Court Street was always constant, Park Street a strong second — I went to both on a regular basis sometimes to Court Street several times a week. Some of the other stores in Copley and Cambridge changed and shifted locations, probably due to rising rents. I remained hopeful that either Court or Park would continue as a solo store–I remember Court Street having a promotion for a special Harry Potter release party with the kids dressing up and getting little gifts. But they too both closed, I think Court Street first and then Park Street.
Over the years, Buck a Book operated, I bought so many wonderful books and gifts there, for myself, family and friends — I wish they were still around today.