Curious George must find a new home. The only shop dedicated to the mischievous fictional monkey is being booted out of its building at One JFK Street in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, forcing the children’s book and toy store to look for a new home.
Real estate investment trust Equity One bought the building last year, and has announced plans the gut the building. A stairwell will replace the current store, named the Only Curious George Store in the World, according to development plans obtained.
Curious George is a mischievous fictional monkey in a children’s book series originally written and illustrated by Margret and HA Rey. The creators of the now-famous series settled in Cambridge after fleeing Paris during Nazi occupation on bicycles with book manuscripts in their backpacks. Seven books were published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, beginning in 1941. The series later expanded after the deaths of the Reys, and has been made into a television series.
Houghton Mifflin granted permission to friends of the Rey’s to open a Curious George-themed bookstore in Harvard Square in 1995. After a brief closing in 2011, the store re-opened in April 2012, with new owners Adam and Jamie Hirsch, and with a new name: the World’s Only Curious George Store. Some products are solely available at the store.
The Hirsches would like the store to remain in Harvard Square, and are currently looking for a new space to rent out. “There is a cultural and deep-rooted connection between Cambridge and Curious George that we and other groups would like to see continued,” Adam Hirsch said.
The store attracts over 100,000 visitors a year, according to the Hirsches. The small corner store bustles with exuberant children, and a cashier makes room for a stroller behind the counter as a child pulls his mother toward a rack of toys. The classic books sit next to stuffed animals, hats and puppets. Hirsch said, “It puts smiles on everyone’s faces of all ages. It’s a place to escape for 20 minutes. It’s linked to literacy, education and learning. People want to hold onto that.”
The store recently celebrated George’s 75th birthday with a block party that drew over 1,000 attendees, according to Hirsch.
Taped to a window overlooking the square is a colorful letter to Cambridge officials from eight-year-old Vanessa Tavares. Her family drives to Harvard Square from the South Shore to specifically visit the store. Her mother Jennifer Hagan said: “I bought her first book there as a baby. We always go to the store when we’re in Cambridge. She saw it on the news, and I told her, ‘Honey, they might close the store,’ and she said, ‘Where are my markers?’”
The building on JFK Street was owned by the Dow Family Trust for over 100 years, and was sold to Equity in fall 2015. Equity One representatives have not responded to repeated requests for comment.
In the meantime, a petition has been signed by more than 5,000 customers and George enthusiasts, urging community members and Commission leaders to support the store in its transition. The Commission will hold a public hearing on 1 December, in which alterations to the property will be discussed.