Looking Inn: Swarthmore Inn, Tavern and Store Just Weeks from Opening

An inside view of the soon-to-be-stocked Swarthmore Campus & Community Store.

An inside view of the soon-to-be-stocked Swarthmore Campus & Community Store.

Part One of Two: The Campus & Community Store

For those who have been waiting and watching the Swarthmore College Inn project take shape over the past months, the first unveiling is at hand: the Swarthmore Campus & Community Store will open on May 1. On that day, in conjunction with the Swarthmore Fun-Fair, the store will open with a ribbon-cutting at 2 p.m.

If your instinct is to call it “the bookstore,” overcome it. Store director Paula Dale said, “We’re getting away from the bookstore title, because we carry so many other things beyond a really good, hand-picked selection of books, including books by local authors. We think students and other Swarthmore shoppers will be interested in many of the same things: art and school supplies, technology accessories, gifts, cards, fair trade and sustainably produced merchandise, and a nice selection of clothing imprinted with town and college images and logos. We hope to bring in jewelry and accessories by local artists.”

The concept behind this new type of college store is to bring Swarthmore College students into the town center as shoppers, possibly adding a new dimension to their experience of their college town, and to provide a retail outlet for some of the basic (and not-so-basic) needs of life which may not be readily available for Swarthmore residents.

“This is definitely the trend in college towns,” said Greg Brown, VP for Finance and Administration at Swarthmore College. “The best model is at Colgate in Hamilton, N.Y., where they moved the bookstore downtown and incorporated a large retail store. It brings students into town, which helped coffee shops, pizzerias and other businesses. We want to accomplish the same thing.”

4-15 bookstore

The store will be more than twice as large as the current Swarthmore College bookstore in the lower level of Clothier Hall. If you haven’t been inside a college bookstore recently, you may be surprised at the merchandise mix. There aren’t so many books as there were a decade ago. Much of the material used in undergraduate coursework is now found online. The store will, however, carry all textbooks specified for use in Swarthmore College courses.

In both its merchandise mix and its hours, the Campus & Community Store reflects a conscious effort to complement rather than supplant Swarthmore’s legacy merchants, said Paula Dale. “I’ve lived in this town for 20-plus years, and serving this community is really important to me. We want to be the place that will special order a book for you, replace your lost phone charger, or bail you out if you get off the train and realize you forgot to buy an anniversary gift.”

Swarthmore merchants have praised the college’s efforts to ensure that the store and the Inn are good neighbors, and generally are enthusiastic about the potential expansion of their markets, said Lora Pietrangelo, owner of Harvey Oak Mercantile on Park Avenue and head of the Swarthmore Merchants group. “I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Paula, and my impression is that she has some great ideas and is dedicated and enthusiastic about serving the resident community, students and guests at the inn. Representatives of the college have stated over and over the importance they place on the relationship with the merchants and the Ville. Their open and collaborative attitude has only added to my expectations that the inn and the store will be a great addition to our town and a boon to local business.”

Following its May 1 opening, the Campus & Community Store will be open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, and noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. The store is located at 4 S. Chester Road, adjacent to the Inn at Swarthmore.

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