Greg Williams and Cynthia Potter will be closing their much-beloved Walk a Crooked Mile Books in August in the Mt. Airy Train Station. (Photo by Nick Kelsh)

Greg Williams and Cynthia Potter will be closing their much-beloved Walk a Crooked Mile Books in August in the Mt. Airy Train Station. (Photo by Nick Kelsh)

by Regina B. Holmes

Sad news for readers in Germantown, Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill. Walk a Crooked Mile Books, the wonderful book shop in the Mt. Airy Train Station at 7423 Devon St. (at Gowen Ave.), where you may have been selling, donating and reading for 18 years, will be closing this August, 2014.

Greg Williams has been running the shop since December 1995. Greg first came to Philadelphia in 1990 to become principal of the Miquon School near Lafayette Hill.

The Mt. Airy Train Station, a Frank Furness-designed building, was built in 1882 and for many years housed a station master who supervised the loading and unloading of freight and lived in the section of the station, which eventually became the book store.

The station was vacant and in disrepair when Williams approached the community with the idea of his leasing it from SEPTA and living there and opening a book store.

“With community support,” Williams said, “I was able to obtain the lease and, with SEPTA, rehab the building.”

In December 1995, Williams moved in with his 12-year-old daughter, Jesse Sharp-Williams, had one room of books, sold coffee to commuters through a trackside window and struggled to make the business work. To finance the business, Williams returned to his other love, teaching science and environmental education to students at Springside.

He would open the store at 6 a.m., serve coffee, then go and teach while others kept the shop open until he returned and closed the shop in the evening.

Slowly, the business improved, and eventually it became a very, very busy bookshop. To attract more customers to the shop and to provide a service to the community that was supporting the store, Williams instituted the Mt. Airy Train Station Concert series that provided hundreds of free concerts, most weeks between April and October, and gave local musicians a chance to play and make a little money from donations from the audience.

He also hosted dozens of Saturday yard sales with vendors lining the driveway and the sidewalk of the station. Willimas also took the bookshop on the road, having a booth at Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill street festivals.

Willimas pretty quickly filled the store with a wide variety of books from $2 paperbacks to rare collectibles. He bought libraries from families, gave trade credit and most recently was given books from people who just wanted to find a good home for their books.

Five years ago, Willimas (soon to turn 65) was joined in the business by his dear partner, Cynthia Potter, and together they struggled to support their customers and keep the bookstore open as long as they could, in spite of the tide of closing bookstores said, Williams. “But, we have concluded that now is the time to say goodbye to the shop and move on to new adventures, including grandparenting.”

Though they would love to sell the book shop to a new owner, their plans are that Walk a Crooked Mile Books will become, at the end of August, primarily an online book store, selling books on the Internet.

Their goal for the next eight months is to find homes for the 40,000 books that they can’t bring home. Until the end of February, all books will be discounted by 20 percent, and the discount will increase each month until August. The concert and yard sales will also continue until then, and Williams hopes to find new homes for both of these community events.

“We hope to be able to see and thank all of our thousands of customers over the next eight months and celebrate with them their friendship and interest in good books,” Williams said.

To find out more details and keep abreast of the closing, visit WalkaCrookedMileBooks.com.

  • Eileen

    Sad news. I lived right across the street – on Gowen until 2 years ago. I loved hearing the concerts every week – then grabbing my chair or blanket and heading over. I often commented that the concerts were one of the best kept secrets of Mt Airy – but felt it was a shame more people missed them. Always fun!
    Held my own yard sales when Greg would hold his. Sure hope someone can take over the shop and keep it going.