National Book Store turns 70 and reopens its flagship store at Glorietta 1: Tradition gets a makeover
EMOTIONAL WEATHER REPORT - Jessica Zafra (The Philippine Star) - December 16, 2012 - 12:00am

Walking into the newly-reopened National Book Store at Glorietta 1 is like going inside a time machine. It feels very familiar—it is the exact same spot in the old mall where as children we would spend hours poring over books and agonizing over which title we would buy with our allowance. This is where we reported in the final weeks of summer with lists of textbooks, notebooks and art supplies for the next school term. There was always that strange combination of sadness at vacation’s end, and excitement at getting all-new stuff. (To paraphrase Nora Ephron, Don’t you love National Book Store in June? Makes me want to buy school supplies.) This is still our suking bookstore, the one we practically grew up in and continue to visit as adults.

 It feels familiar, but it looks completely different. Imagine going home and finding that all the furniture has been replaced and everything is roomier and better-organized. “The Glorietta 1 branch is National Book Store’s flagship, so we have always felt that it should be bigger, better and offer a superior shopping experience,” says Trina Licauco-Alindogan, National Book Store regional manager and one of the grandchildren of “Nanay” Socorro Cancio Ramos now running the largest bookstore chain in the country.

National Book Store was one of the first tenants in Glorietta 1, which used to be known as Quad. The branch, the bookstore’s fourth, opened in 1974 and operated continuously for over three decades until the mall closed for renovation. With its formal reopening last December 4, National Book Store looks back on tradition while looking forward to the future. “The store has a brand new design which is modern but still in keeping with the traditional and familiar look and feel of a National Book Store,” adds Trina, who has fond memories of working at the old Quad store during summer vacations back when she was in grade school. “In the beginning we grandchildren were assigned to the stockroom. Eventually we were allowed to help on the sales floor and at the cashier.”

The old store had so many school supplies, office supplies and books packed into its two floors that shopping there had a treasure hunt feel to it. Today the store takes up three floors of the newly-renovated Ayala mall—with more shelf space for books and larger display areas for other merchandise, finding what you need is so much easier. There’s even room for shop-in-shop sections for marquee brands such as Crane & Co. stationery, Moleskine notebooks, Sheaffer pens and Umbra home accessories. There is a Work Station area for office equipment ranging from desktop monitors to filing cabinets.

Since reading and writing go so well with coffee (and other beverages), there’s an authentic Italian coffee shop, an Illy Café, on the ground floor. Readings, talks and signings by well-known authors will be held regularly in the events area. In recent years National Book Store’s guest authors have included Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz, bestselling young adult fantasy novelist Lauren Kate, acclaimed Fil-American novelist Alex Gilvarry, and influential comic book author Mark Millar, the creator of Kick-Ass.

 The reopening of the flagship store at Glorietta is one of the many activities commemorating the 70th year of National Book Store. To kick off the anniversary celebration, National Book Store Foundation committed to building 70 libraries all over the Philippines. “We are on schedule to deliver library number 70 just before the New Year,” says Trina, who also heads the Foundation.

 Another 70th anniversary project is collecting 70,000 books for the foundation’s Project Aklat book drive. “Project Aklat is our Christmas book drive — anyone can go to any National Book Store or Powerbooks store to purchase and donate any of the books we have pre-selected. The Foundation will donate these books to schools and other institutions for their libraries. With the help of all our donors and generous customers, we will hopefully reach our target of 70,000 books for our Project Aklat program.”

 Apart from its 147 physical branches across the country, National Book Store is making its presence felt online. “Currently in beta stage, nationalbookstore.com is our online bookstore that has all the bestselling titles that National Book Store carries,” Trina tells us. “We ship books to anywhere in the Philippines and worldwide. We are integrating the school and office supplies sections and expanding the list of titles available.  When the website is in full swing, we should have all our available books and our bestselling school and office supplies online.”

Seventy years ago, Socorro Cancio Ramos opened a five square-meter stall selling books and school supplies in Escolta, Manila. That the stall has grown into the retail giant National Book Store is a testament to Ramos’ belief that books and education are the key to a better life. “My Lola only finished high school,” Trina points out. “She never had the opportunity to go to college because her family could not afford it. So when she had children, she sacrificed everything to give them the best education she could manage.  Perhaps that is why her advocacy has always been reading and education.”

From the day the bookstore opened, Ramos made it her mission to sell books and school supplies at the most reasonable prices. “She insisted that National Book Store provide customers with the best value possible,” Trina says. “For instance, if you look at the prices of the books we carry, they are usually significantly below cover price.” For seven decades and counting, National Book Store has maintained this commitment to its customers. When you walk into a National Book Store, you become part of this long history.

 

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