January 6, 2016

Otto’s—one of the country’s oldest bookstores—is up for sale



Betsy Rider, owner of Otto Bookstore

One of the nation’s five oldest bookstores, Otto Bookstore (or as patrons refer to it: Otto’s), is up for sale. Publishers Weekly‘s Judith Rosen reports that the announcement comes from Betsy Rider, the store’s owner, following a strenuous holiday season.

“Enough is enough,” Rider told PW, “Christmas was brutal.” Rider also noted that despite the slight decrease in sales from last season, at 81 years-old, she was finding it harder to keep up with the day-to-day demands of maintaining a bookstore. Following the sale of the store, Rider plans to retire.

Of Rider’s decision, Rosen states:

Although Rider has considered closing Otto, she doesn’t want to desert her customers or her staff. She approached a local developer to take over the 2,000 sq. ft. bookstore, which is located in the birthplace of Little League Baseball. She also declined an offer, which would require her to continue to work, from one of her 10 children.

Located in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Otto’s has been in the Rider family for over one-hundred years. Jack Roesgen, Betsy Rider’s father, first began working there in 1905. Thirty-five years later in 1940, Roesgen bought the 2,000 square-foot shop. Following his death in 1958, Rider and her mother, Margaret Roesgen, took the store into their own hands. Rider was twenty-four at the time.

Before Otto was Otto—that is to say “a booklover’s paradise in the heart of Heart of Downtown Williamsport”—it was A. D. Lundy and Company, “a business dedicated to the selling of window shades, wallpaper and books as well as insurance.” Over time, and seemingly countless address changes—the store’s website has a remarkably detailed history section, which contests the claim that Otto was founded in 1877—the business shed its shutters, wallpaper, and insurance dealings to become the beloved Otto Bookstore in 1924.

And now it can be yours.

For information about purchasing Otto, contact [email protected].



Chad Felix is the Manager of Direct Sales and Library Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.