PROVINCETOWN — In the past few weeks, Philip Swayze, who became the owner of the Provincetown Bookshop after inheriting the business from his uncle Joel Newman, has been getting a lot of emails. Swayze put the bookshop — the inventory and the brand, that is, not the building at 246 Commercial St. — up for sale last month with an asking price of $50,000.
The shop will need a new home because the building it occupies was recently bought by Paige Koudijs, the mother of the young men who run Hennep, the new marijuana dispensary next door.
Swayze said this week that he had received many inquiries and offers and had several “robust conversations” with prospective buyers. Some of those conversations have been good; most, not so much.
Swayze spoke optimistically about “one woman from the greater Boston area who is well funded and business savvy and who owns a house in Provincetown,” with whom he has been going back and forth. He described her as his “one real buyer.”
But he’s also received multiple emails from a woman who said that she’s interested in his business and that she’s “cooking up something real good.” She wants to move the Provincetown Bookshop to Northern California and run it from an organic farm, so that customers could simultaneously peruse literature and leafy greens. Swayze told her no.
Overall, Swayze said, he’s hearing from people who have “a lot of interest and passion” in running an independent bookstore, but “no solid plan.” Some have been younger people who moved to Provincetown during the pandemic when their jobs went remote. He appreciates their excitement about getting involved in the community.
“But cool ideas don’t always make for good business,” Swayze said.
Finding the right new location for the bookstore will be a big challenge, Swayze knows. “The only reason the bookstore stayed alive all these years was because my uncle owned the building and ran the business,” he said. When he inherited the business, he got the building, too.
“Provincetown rent is way too expensive for an independent bookshop,” he said. “For years, I undercharged myself rent just because it was important for me to keep the store running. That won’t be an option for the next owner.”
On the website of Premier Commercial, the agency that represents much of the available commercial space on the Outer Cape, the least expensive commercial space in Provincetown is listed at $35,000. That’s for a small unit in the rear of a building with little visibility to perambulating tourists. For a space in the thick of Commercial Street — a storefront where people will actually know your business exists — prices are closer to $3.5 million.
Swayze said that saying goodbye to his family business has been made even harder by what has been an extremely successful summer for the Provincetown Bookshop so far. The store saw a threefold increase in sales in June of 2021 compared to the same month over the past five years.
Provincetown has been busy this summer, Swayze said. “Or, I don’t know, it’s an old-Provincetown place,” he said, “and people might just be feeling nostalgic.”