scorecardresearch Skip to main content

Time could be running out for Out of Town News

Nina Cao of Portland, Ore., was among the customers at Out of Town News Sunday.Nic Antaya for The Boston Globe

CAMBRIDGE — Time may be finally running out for the Harvard Square landmark Out of Town News, after its owner recently said he won’t renew the newsstand’s lease and will close its doors by the end of October.

The move comes as the city gears up for a project this spring that will upgrade the plaza in the heart of the square, along with a renovation of the historic kiosk that has served for decades as the newsstand’s home, which will probably leave it empty over the winter.

“There will be nothing in that building, which I believe is very unfortunate,” Jan Devereux, Cambridge’s vice mayor, said Sunday. “It’s a huge loss; it’s very sad.”


The departure of Out of Town News — a Harvard Square fixture since its founding in 1954 — would mark an end of an era for a neighborhood that has seen rapid change as businesses have been driven out by rising rents and buyers have snapped up real estate for development.

“It’s like the Grand Central Station clock. Everyone meets up there,” said Maria Domoslawska, as she waited for friends outside the newsstand Sunday. “That’s this — for Harvard Square.”

For many the departure isn’t a shock: The city’s planned renovation meant Out of Town News would have had to relocate in the spring, Devereux said. The kiosk, built in 1927-1928 as a subway entrance, needs repairs, and city officials are exploring other uses for the building, she said.

The newsstand business would have had to leave before the work began in the spring, she said. As it is, the business will be out by Halloween, and the city plans to display artwork in the vacant kiosk.

“It would be in the city’s and public’s best interest” for the building to remain occupied into the spring, she said.


Out of Town News is currently operated by Muckey’s Corp, of Pembroke, whose owner, Mike Patel, did not respond to messages requesting comment on Sunday.

News that the business would not renew its lease was reported Friday by Cambridge Day.

More than a decade ago, Patel helped save Out of Town News when he bought the business from New Jersey-based Hudson News and signed a lease with the city for the kiosk in early 2009.

At the time, Hudson News decided against renewing the lease, citing a diminished demand for print news. Hudson had purchased the business in 1994 from its founder, Sheldon Cohen.

But by 2016, the city was planning upgrades for Harvard Square. And concerns about the viability of a business that sold print news led officials to seek another use for the structure.

Patel had argued that his business was profitable and had said he’d like to remain in the building after the renovation.

“It’s a landmark, this newsstand. . . . The customers love the store,” Patel told the Globe in 2016. “Businesswise, no doubt we do very well.”

For decades, Harvard Square residents who wanted to keep up with the news — from Boston, London, or Paris — could turn to Out of Town News, which at its height sold 200 publications.

Cohen, a local newspaper seller, had acted on advice from his then-fiance to sell “out-of-town” papers, as they did in Times Square, he told the Globe in 1955.


He said Harvard faculty had standing orders for newspapers like The Times of London and the Irish Independent, from Dublin. A piece of his business — and perhaps a sign of just how much the news industry has changed — was from Red Sox fans buying papers from other cities.

“The real red-hot Sox fans want to know what the Detroit, Cleveland, and Chicago writers think about their team,” Cohen said.

On Sunday, Out of Town News stood amidst throngs of people enjoying a beautiful late-summer day: Music played, a street artist worked on a canvas, and passersby stopped to look at titles in the newsstand racks.

And it still has customers who love the feel of a newspaper in their hands: Among them was Bob Hennessy of Reading, who picked up a print copy of the Globe on his way home from Mass at St. Paul Church.

Losing the business would be felt by those who still get their news in print, he said.

“It’s hard to get a newspaper anywhere anymore,” he said.

For Ellen Hill, who has lived nearby for more than 50 years, Out of Town News is “the heart of the square,” she said.

“It’s impossible to think of Harvard Square, such an intellectual center, not having a place to buy a newspaper,” Hill said.

Felicia Gans can be reached at John Hilliard can be reached