Hill Talk: Trover Shop to Close After 51 Years on Hill

Posted July 7, 2009 at 4:20pm

The signs glare out from the windows of the Trover Shop, bright orange rectangles proclaiming the end of an era: “Going Out of Business Sale! 20% Off All Merchandise.—

Inside, patrons move with hushed reverence around shelves of periodicals, books and greeting cards, all of them expressing a quiet incredulity that after half a century of business, the Trover Shop is closing.

“Disbelief,— clerk Jimmy Lavelle said in an attempt to relay their reactions. “People are devastated.—

Andy Shuman’s father, Joe, started the Trover Shop 51 years ago. Andy inherited the family business, along with older brothers Steve and Al, and has been working at the shop for some 25 years.

Shuman said the forces precipitating Trover’s closure — a stagnant economy, competition from the Internet with its offerings of free information and sales-tax-free books, the rise of larger chains — represent “kind of a combination of everything.—

The store has been a staple of intellectual life on Capitol Hill. Located just blocks from the Capitol, Trover’s best-sellers have consistently been political reference volumes such as Congressional almanacs, Shuman said.

Trover also features frequent book-signings by political types/authors, with the list of prominent names that have stopped by including Hillary Rodham Clinton, Colin Powell and every Speaker since Tip O’Neill (D-Mass.), Shuman said.

“We’ve had nothing but good experiences with them,— he said. “They’ve been everyday people. We’ve known them all our lives.—

Anthony Williams, who has worked at Trover for 26 years, had a similar response when asked for an anecdote about public figures browsing the shelves.

“Most of them come in, they’re real friendly, talk to you, ask you about different things,— he said.

Mark Sweeney, chief of the serial and government publications division for the Library of Congress, said the LOC has relied on Trover as a way to keep its reading room stocked without having to go through the often-tedious process of screening mailed publications.

“Trover was great because it was a place we could just walk down to and get a dozen or so of our most popular magazines,— Sweeney said. “They were so easy to work with. We’ll find another source, I guess, but they won’t be right down the street.—

Customers’ familiarity with the place is evident as regulars, purchases in hand, converse casually with clerks who often know them by their first names.

“I’m very sad,— said Michelle Carroll, who said she has been shopping at Trover for 15 years. “It’s a landmark here. When you need something at the last minute, you can always find it here.—

Shuman spoke of how difficult it has been to accept that Trover will be disappearing, relating the experience of seeing former customers on the street and wondering how Trover has let them down.

“Overall, customers seem to be very sad to see us going,— he said. “Most of them have known us for most of their lives.—