Rant of the Week: The Commercialized Moravian Book Shop


The Moravian Book Shop; Photo Courtesy of: @MoravianBkShop via Facebook

What pops into your mind when you think of the Moravian Book Shop? If you ask most residents of Bethlehem, a lot of them will tell you the history of the store or how much they despise the new management.

If you ask the Moravian students, the opinions differ depending on whether they are from the area or where they live on Moravian’s campus. Main Campus students hate the shuttle trip down Main Street, and South Campus residents are happy that they do not have to go far to pick up their textbooks. 

I have an internal fight with myself every time the Book Shop is brought up in conversation. I was born and raised here in Bethlehem, and one of the fondest memories of my childhood was shopping at the Moravian Book Shop. Every year, my family and I would take a trip to Main Street as soon as the holiday season kicked off in the city. One of our many stops was at the Book Shop just to scope out the merchandise they had. 

Even when it wasn’t December, my sisters and I were constantly in that store. Whether we needed a gift for a family member, wanted to browse the books, or stopped in for sweets at their candy counter, we made sure they always had our service. Walking into the Book Shop always comforted me, and I loved it. The staff were so welcoming and genuinely loved their jobs. There was a shared sense of pride between the customers and workers, because we all knew the store radiated jolliness and warmth throughout the year.

It could have been one of the hottest days of the summer, but once you walked into the store, you immediately felt the overwhelming urge to sing Christmas songs. In the older bookshop, on one half of the store, they always had holiday decorations on display, ranging from Moravian Stars, tree ornaments, and decorative ribbons. On the other half, they had a deli in the back area, the candy counter, and a quaint sitting area just before the actual Book Shop area started. 

When I found out Moravian College bought the whole store, my heart sank, as it did with many Bethlehem natives and those who think of this city as a second home. I knew the store would not stay the same. Personally, I cannot stand drastic changes to things I care so deeply about. It was as if an old, dear friend was moving away. Is that dramatic? Yes, it is, but I bet many people from the Lehigh Valley also felt — and feel — the same way. 

I’m not claiming Moravian College or Barnes & Noble are at fault, but I believe they played large roles in the downfall of one of the most beloved shops on Main Street.

Both institutions are at fault for commercializing this store. They still claim to be a small, localized business, but it no longer is. Years ago, you had a variety of options to choose from when you wanted to buy something. Now, the store just features overpriced objects with the Moravian, Champion, and Under Armour logos. There is very little Christmas merchandise from the old Moravian Book Shop– instead they have an abundance of Bethlehem merchandise, and even a few random sections that have no correlation to the Lehigh Valley at all.

One of the reasons I do not like the new store is the whole textbook ordeal. The old Book Shop is frankly too small and compact to have the back area section for the textbooks. Every semester, I absolutely dread having to go into the Book Shop to pick up or return books. The staff try to be as helpful as possible, but it is just so unorganized that it makes my head spin. When the stores were separate, I feel like there was more organization as to where everything was supposed to be. 

I definitely miss the Moravian Book Shop and the Moravian College Bookstore being two separate stores. When the College’s store was on the bottom floor of the HUB building, my friends and I would go in to browse religiously. We constantly found ourselves there when we had free time and money to spare. Since it moved, I have gone out of my way to avoid going in the store.

I hope one day someone will return the store to the way we all remember it to be, but I honestly don’t see that happening anytime soon.