Otto’s bookstore under new ownership

IOANNIS PASHAKIS/Sun-Gazette Kathryn Nassberg and Isak Sidenbladh stand with the previous owner of Otto's bookstore, Betsy Rider after the store on Friday.

The legacy of the oldest independently owned bookstore in the United States and a piece of downtown Williamsport identity will continue under new ownership.

Kathryn Nassberg and her husband, Isak Sidenbladh, finalized their purchase of Otto’s Bookstore, at 107 W. Fourth St., Friday afternoon.

Nassberg’s family has been a part of the community for over two hundred years and she is no stranger to the shelves of the bookstore.

A native of Sweden, Sidenbladh’s family owns one of the oldest continuously running book publishers in Scandinavia.

“It seemed like a natural fit,” Nassberg said. “My family has been loyal customers of the store for decades. I have fond memories of visiting the store as a child, just as my mother did years before.”

It’s important to the couple that those memories and experiences are given to the next generations in the area, she said.

Otto’s was founded in 1841, but has been a part of the Rider family for four generations when Jacob Roesgen bought the store in 1928.

Betsy Rider, the current owner, is retiring after 60 years in the store.

“It’s two-sided,” Rider said. “I am very much relieved that there are good buyers who will keep the clientele happy and on the other side it’s not my store anymore.”

But Betsy’s son, Tom Rider, will carry the name into the next era – something very important to Nassberg and Sidenbladh.

“We feel that it is very important to have the Rider family as a part of Otto’s,” the couple said. “They have been the face and the heart of the store for over a century and their dedication to the community has been tremendous.”

Betsy Rider announced she was putting the bookstore on the market in January of 2016.

Shortly after, Nassberg and Sidenbladh got a call from Nassberg’s mother asking if they heard the bookstore they frequented together was for sale.

“The first step was thinking it over,” Sidenbladh said. “Talking together and asking if this was something we wanted to do.”

The Riders and the Nassbergs have known each other for decades and are avid readers, so it was a natural fit, Nassberg explained.

Although the new owners plan to use their experience to build the company, they emphasized that Otto’s will continue to serve the community like it has for over 175 years.

“The staff will stay on and the location will remain the same,” Nassberg said. “We will work hard to ensure that Otto’s remains the book-lover’s paradise that everyone knows and loves. That history is extremely important to us and we look forward to serving the community to preserve Otto’s as the landmark destination it has been for generations.”