Wordsworth Declares Bankruptcy

Citing lackluster sales due to competition from the internet and from chain stores, the company that owns Cambridge establishments WordsWorth Books and Curious George Goes to WordsWorth filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Friday.

It was the latest blow to Brattle Square, which has suffered a series of store departures recently, including Tweeter on Sept. 7 and Brine’s Sporting Goods, Chili’s and Little Russia last spring.

But Hillel Stavis, who owns the two bookstores, said that both would remain open under bankruptcy protection. He said that he was looking for investment capital to resuscitate WordsWorth Books, a discount bookseller, which he started in 1976.

“We’re looking for investors who feel passionate about independent bookselling,” Stavis said. He added that if he were successful he might add a cafe to the store.

Stavis said that immediately after his company announced its bankruptcy, a group of Cambridge residents told him that they were forming a committee to help WordsWorth.

“People have had it with chains,” he said. Stavis said that a combination of “too much Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and too little Harvard Square” had cut into WordsWorth’s business.

“It’s much more competitive than it used to be,” he said.

However, he said that Curious George Goes to WordsWorth, which specializes in children’s books, was “thriving.” He is considering opening a second Curious George store.

“Curious George is immune from pressures because it’s unique,” he said. “Curious George is current and we don’t have many creditors for that. Curious George can stand on its own. WordsWorth needs help.”

Stavis said that business has declined in Harvard Square ever since national chains opened there. He said potential customers did not want to deal with parking and crowds when they could go to the mall, and added that independent bookstores throughout the country were suffering.

But Frank Kramer, the owner of the 72-year-old Harvard Book Store, just a few blocks from WordsWorth, said that his shop was “doing well.” He said that his store’s proximity to Harvard Yard, used book sales and frequent buyer program had helped.

Kenny Likis, who said he has shopped at WordsWorth for the last 20 years, lamented the travails of the Harvard Square institution.

“It’s very said to see,” he said yesterday morning while reading a sign announcing the bankruptcy on the door of WordsWorth Books. “It’s disappointing that by supporting Amazon you’re undermining a local bookstore.”

—Staff writer Joseph M. Tartakoff can be reached at tartakof@fas.harvard.edu