Penn Book Center hosts authors from all over the country for readings and discussions.

By Yvonne Dennis (246)

Do all of your book shopping at Penn Book Center in University City in the month of March and not only will you get 20% off, but the Associated Alumni of Central High School will get a donation from the bookstore.

The benefit for the bookstore, customers and the alumni association comes through an arrangement between Central’s Development Office and the bookstore’s owners, whose daughter is a Central freshman.

Ashley Montague, co-owner of Penn Book Center

“She loves Central and we just thought this would be a nice idea,” said Ashley Montague, mom of Sarah Row (280), and Andrew Row, 13.

When customers check out at the store, at 34th and Sansom streets, they should say to the bookseller, “I’m participating in the Central High School fundraiser,” to get the discount and have the purchase count toward the donation to AACHS. AACHS provides academic and capital support for Central,  students, staff and graduates.

Penn Book Center carries all the typical fare of a general-interest bookstore plus books befitting its academic surroundings and an array of works by Philadelphia-area authors.

Ms. Montague and her husband, Michael Row, bought the business in 2005, four years after turned its first quarterly profit and was solidifying its dominance over brick-and mortar bookstores. What was the couple thinking?

“My husband has done a bunch of businesses and said ‘I want to have a family business,’ ” said Ms. Montague.

Mr. Row had a strategy for entering the “sunset industry” of in-person bookselling and his wife had a PhD in English. So the two University of Pennsylvania graduates–who met in Philadelphia but not at Penn–bought the store, established in 1962, from its retiring owners.

With a large Barnes & Noble/UPenn bookstore just two blocks away, events such as author readings, academic discussions and monthly book-club meetings add to PBC’s independent character and appeal. Ms. Montague credits the store’s events coordinator and the other half-dozen employees.

Visitors are invited to guess the origin of three of the store’s window quotes to win an advance reader’s copy of a book of his/her choice.

Central Development Director Lynn Norton Robbins, whose job is to procure substantial gifts for the betterment of Central, said the alumni association is extremely grateful to PBC.