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Friday, May 11, 2012

The True Story of the Demise of Sesslers Used Bookstore

Dear Jerry

I set Hayes up in the building (1306 Walnut) next to mine so that the Sesslers tradition could continue.  I OWNED the building that I arranged Hayes to move into so that the tradition of Sesslers could continue selling current and used books.  I never planned to close down selling new and used books and always intended to keep Vail and Hayes in business as long as they wished to do so.  I kept my word to them 100% and took a terrible financial beating for doing so.

He was given a rent of $2000 a month even though it cost me $6000 a month to own that building.   In the six years that he was there he rarely paid me any rent.  In short Hayes and Vail were dead beats and took advantage of my good will and patience with them.  I may have complained about this 5 or 6 times in the 9 years that he was there. 

When Hayes went out of business and quit, he owed me $130,000 in unpaid rent.  I never sued him or tried to get the money back from him.  He also left many books and shelving in the store that had to be carted away at a cost to me in the range of $15000.  The roof had to be replaced at a cost of $45,000.  He left the building a wreck and never did anything to keep it up.  So my loss to keep the Sesslers tradition alive was in the range of $190,000 while the building cost me an extra $3000 a month to own for over 9 years which was a extra loss of at least $250,000

Right now Lori Cohen runs the store just like it was when Charles Sesslers ran it and when his son, Dick Sessler ran it.  So the true tradition of the REAL Sesslers is still very much alive.  And the name "Sesslers" is still on the window.

I kept Hayes around until he wanted to quit. And then when he did quit, he disappeared like a thief in the night.  He never once thanked me.  But I didnt care because I agreed with you that the tradition he established was a good one.  Thank you for the chance to give you the facts.


Graham Arader

On Fri, May 11, 2012 at 7:12 PM, Jerry Keenehan <jerry_keenehan@mac.com> wrote:

Graham, I came across this webpage when looking for a little background on Mabel Zahn to pass on to Sam Marcus, owner of the 'Bookworm' bookshop in the Farmer's Market in Lemoyne, Pa.

I have always had fond memories of the Sessler’s bookstore that I knew in the 60s and was particularly privileged to have known Mabel Zahn. I purchased an original edition, first issue of the Christmas Carol ($250 I think) from Ms. Zahn in the mid-60s. And what a transporting experience it was to step into that time-warp of a wrought-iron cage at Sessler’s and stand amidst all of the precious documents and books so treasured by Ms. Zahn – like the wonderful map you mention in your commentary. After purchasing the book and learning a ‘little bit’ about such treasures, I took it back to Sessler’s and asked Ms. Zahn if she could identify the various ‘points’ for me that identified it as a first issue. Despite what I presume was a busy schedule for her at that time and not in any way hinting of my naivet√©  in making the request, she said she would do so as soon as she got a chance – and made good on her word, returning a wonderful note typed on her old manual typewriter and outlining the ‘points’ of my favorite story of all time.

I've also known Hays since the 60s when I would periodically purchase a book at Sessler's or purchase a print to be framed by "Mr. Doyle(?)" whom I always used to address as "Mr. Sessler" - I was always very gently 'corrected'. I used to stop by Hibberd’s every chance I got to browse for a good read – I was disappointed several years ago when I found that Hays and Vail were no longer there.

I have to confess that you have been on my list of public enemies #1 ever since you purchased Sessler's and callously (forgive my ire) took Sessler's out of the 'book business' (for us run of the mill booklovers anyway).  I was so glad at the time that Hays and Vail had an opportunity to open a great bookstore right next door. I lived in Phila all my life (grew up in Kensington at 2823 N. Rosehill St. - right across the street from "Adrian's" house in the original Rocky movie), spent many years working in center city and stopped by Hibberd's frequently. One of my favorite books purchased from Hibberd's was 'Incidents of Travel and Adventure in the Far West with Colonel Fremont's Last Expedition' by Solomon Nunes Carvalho - a book I recently passed on to my favorite dentist in the world, Dr. Leslie Hirsch of Don Trachtenberg's office at 1500 Locust. 

Not sure why I am rambling on so much, but having passed your shop on the way to Hibberd's many times, harboring evil thoughts about the demise of Sessler's 'bookstore' and having come across the above link, I just had to have my say.  

It seems you have a very classy shop at Sessler's, but couldn't you maybe pick up Hays' old bookstore next door and bring back to life the magical name of 'Sessler's' Bookshop in Philadelphia?  I have been living and working in Harrisburg for several years now, but whenever I’m back in Phila (usually for an appt. with Leslie Hirsch at 1500 Locust), I always have that pull to walk down to 13th and Walnut and just spend a little time seeing what gems of reading I could find at Hibberd’s (aka Sesslers I) and it still burns to know that neither Sessler’s nor Hibberd’s is there for me.

Regards and best wishes, notwithstanding my contrary remarks,

Jerry Keenehan

Jeremiah P. Keenehan

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