HugoBooks began as a 500 square foot store in Marblehead, Mass. on February 15, 1965, opened by Robert W. Hugo three months before his graduation from UMass-Amherst. Called The Spirit of ’76 Bookstore, it was managed by Bob's mother, Geraldine, with assistance from his brother David, founder of the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore on Martha's Vineyard. Bob would travel every weekend to Marblehead to do all the ordering and run the store on its busiest day, Saturday. From July to September of that first year things were bleak and the fledgling store was not "making it," so Bob took an all-night job in nearby Salem building motors for small engines, then opening the bookstore from 10am to 5pm. After four months of all-night work Bob took a job as a busboy in a nearby restaurant. The hours were better and he was fed.
Realizing this hand to mouth nurturing of the business was too slow, as fate would have it, Bob had a motorcycle accident and needed extensive dental work which he couldn't afford. His wonderful dentist, Dr. Ray Cole, who just happened to be opening a new bank in Marblehead suggested that if Bob would move his account to the new bank, Dr. Cole would secure a loan big enough to pay for dental work and give the bookstore a substantial cash infusion. Bob moved his account, took the loan, fixed his teeth and restocked and added much more inventory. He quit the other jobs to concentrate fully on the Spirit of ’76. To keep expenses low, Bob remained in his one-room apartment for seven years.
By 1969 Bob moved his store to a 3000 square foot space in a more prosperous part of town. He purchased the building in 1976, knowing that if his business were to grow, he needed to expand. This he did by acquiring a second store in 1988 — the Book Rack in Newburyport and the Andover bookstore in Andover, Mass. in 1992. Hugobooks opened a 4th store in Swampscott November 15, 2011. The Andover store is the second oldest continually operating bookstore in America. Founded in 1809, this store celebrated its 200th birthday in October 2009. All three stores are under the corporate umbrella of Hugobooks, Inc. Bob celebrated 50 years of selling books on February 15, 2015.