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Last newsstand in Harrisburg struggling to survive

Transit News is the last newsstand in Harrisburg.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — William Cologie curates the literary selections for sale in the book section of his store. When asked to choose a favorite author, he reaches for Polish poet Wisława Szymborska.

There’s lighter reading, too. Jennifer Aniston, clad in a “micro-bikini,” stares down from the nearby magazine rack. Her caption on the cover of Allure declares, “I don’t have anything to hide at this point.”

The shop’s main draw, though, are the dozen or so newspapers laid out on racks outside the entrance.

“We’re the last newsstand in town,” Cologie said. “So we have a lot of local people who come in and buy their papers every day.”

But fewer people are buying newspapers than when the store opened in 1990. According to a Pew Research poll, 32% of Americans regularly get their news from print newspapers, versus 86% of Americans who regularly get their news online.

As news moved from the page to the screen, Transit News was losing business. Then, it began losing newspapers as some went out of business, some stopped delivering as far and some reduced the number of days they came out.

Transit News no longer sells the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, New York Daily News, Middletown Press and Journal and York Daily Record.

Then the pandemic lowered foot traffic by a third. 

Then the rent went up.

The store has not been profitable for two years, Cologie said.

He is turning the page with plans to retire in the next few months and is looking to sell the business to save it. Cologie believes a new owner could stay in business by negotiating a lower rent and modestly raising snack prices, which he said are currently priced lower than most newsstands.

Without a buyer, the store will have to close in March.

“We have a very loyal clientele,” Cologie said. “There are people that are here every week and it’s generally been a joy.”

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