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Curious George loses his home: world’s only store to be closed down

New building owners plan to replace Massachusetts store dedicated to playful fictional monkey with a stairwell, as customers and enthusiasts push back

Curious George must find a new home. The only shop dedicated to the mischievous fictional monkey is being booted out of its building at One JFK Street in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, forcing the childrens book and toy store to look for a new home.

Real estate investment trust Equity One bought the building last year, and has announced plans the gut the building. A stairwell will replace the current store, named the Only Curious George Store in the World, according to development plans obtained by the Guardian.

Curious George is a mischievous fictional monkey in a childrens book series originally written and illustrated by Margret and HA Rey. The creators of the now-famous series settled in Cambridge after fleeing Paris during Nazi occupation on bicycles with book manuscripts in their backpacks. Seven books were published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, beginning in 1941. The series later expanded after the deaths of the Reys, and has been made into a television series.

Houghton Mifflin granted permission to friends of the Reys to open a Curious George-themed bookstore in Harvard Square in 1995. After a brief closing in 2011, the store re-opened in April 2012, with new owners Adam and Jamie Hirsch, and with a new name: the Worlds Only Curious George Store. Some products are solely available at the store.

Curious George store owner Adam Hirsch at the store in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photograph: Boston Globe/Boston Globe via Getty Images

The Hirsches would like the store to remain in Harvard Square, and are currently looking for a new space to rent out. There is a cultural and deep-rooted connection between Cambridge and Curious George that we and other groups would like to see continued, Adam Hirsch said.

The store attracts over 100,000 visitors a year, according to the Hirsches. The small corner store bustles with exuberant children, and a cashier makes room for a stroller behind the counter as a child pulls his mother toward a rack of toys. The classic books sit next to stuffed animals, hats and puppets. Hirsch said, It puts smiles on everyones faces of all ages. Its a place to escape for 20 minutes. Its linked to literacy, education and learning. People want to hold onto that.

The store recently celebrated Georges 75th birthday with a block party that drew over 1,000 attendees, according to Hirsch.

Vanessa Tavares, 8, a Curious George fan whose letter calling for the store to be saved is taped to the shop window. Photograph: Sarah Betancourt

Taped to a window overlooking the square is a colorful letter to Cambridge officials from eight-year-old Vanessa Tavares. Her family drives to Harvard Square from the South Shore to specifically visit the store. Her mother Jennifer Hagan said: I bought her first book there as a baby. We always go to the store when were in Cambridge. She saw it on the news, and I told her, Honey, they might close the store, and she said, Where are my markers?

The building on JFK Street was owned by the Dow Family Trust for over 100 years, and was sold to Equity in fall 2015. Equity One representatives have not responded to repeated requests for comment.

In the meantime, a petition has been signed by more than 5,000 customers and George enthusiasts, urging community members and Commission leaders to support the store in its transition. The Commission will hold a public hearing on 1 December, in which alterations to the property will be discussed.

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Man rescued at sea as mother presumed dead was suspect in grandfather’s killing

Nathan Carman, saved after he said he spent a week adrift when boat sunk, said he had nothing to do with grandfathers death and did all he could to find mother

A 22-year-old man rescued from a life raft after a fishing trip that left his mother missing and presumed dead had been a suspect in the still unsolved 2013 killing of his rich grandfather, adding to the multitude of questions swirling around him and what happened at sea.

Nathan Carman was picked up by a freighter on Sunday, 100 miles off the Massachusetts coast, after what he said was a week adrift that began when his 31ft aluminum fishing boat inexplicably sank during a mother-and-son outing.

Coast Guard officials interviewed Carman, and police searched his home in Vermont as part of an investigation into the ill-fated trip. He has not been charged with anything.

In an interview with the Associated Press on Wednesday, he said he had absolutely nothing to do with his grandfathers killing and did everything he could to find his mother, 54-year-old Linda Carman, of Middletown, Connecticut, as their boat went down. He said he blew a whistle and called out frantically for her for hours.

I was yelling, Mom! Mom! Carman said. He added: I loved my mother and my mother loved me.

According to court documents, Carman came under suspicion in the killing three years ago of his maternal grandfather, 87-year-old John Chakalos, a wealthy real estate developer who was found shot to death in his Windsor, Connecticut, home.

A 2014 search warrant obtained by the AP said that Carman was the last person known to have seen Chakalos alive; that Carman had bought a rifle consistent with the one used in the crime; and that he discarded his hard drive and GPS unit used around the time of the shooting.

Carman was never charged. According to court papers, police submitted an arrest warrant to a prosecutor, but it was returned unsigned with a request for more information.

In his will, Chakalos left an estate worth more than $42m to his four adult daughters, including Carmans mother.

Windsor police Capt Thomas LePore said on Wednesday that the case is still open and that Carman remains a person of interest.

My grandfather was like a father to me, and I was like a son to him, Carman told the AP. He was the closest person in the world to me, and I loved him and he loved me, and I had absolutely nothing to do with his death.

In the course of investigating the killing, authorities said in court papers that they learned from family members that Carman had a history of violence as a child, including one incident in which he allegedly held another child hostage with a knife. The documents also said Carman had several alarming episodes while he was a high school student, although no details of those incidents were given.

Authorities would not discuss the investigation into the boating trip.

Mother and son set off from a marina in South Kingstown, Rhode Island, on 17 September, authorities said. Carman told the AP that their boat sank in a matter of minutes around noon the next day after he heard a funny noise in the engine compartment and saw water pouring in.

He said he saw his mother in the cockpit and then saw her pulling in the fishing lines. He said he grabbed three bags containing food, flares and life jackets. But when he looked back, his mother was no longer there, he said.

One minute I was standing on the deck, the next minute I was in the water, he said.

Carman said the life raft self-inflated, and he swam to it, about 15-20ft away, and began calling for his mother.

On Monday, authorities searched Carmans home in Vernon, Vermont, and seized a modem, a SIM card and a letter. Their search warrant indicated investigators think that Carman was handling some boat motor repairs himself and that the vessel might not have been seaworthy.

The investigation has also revealed that Nathan had intended to go fishing further off-shore in a different location than what were his mothers intentions and understanding, the warrant said.

Family members have said Carman has Aspergers syndrome, a form of autism that can be characterized by social awkwardness and repetitive behavior. Experts say people with Aspergers are no more likely than others to commit violent crimes.

His attorney, Hubert Santos, said that Carman cooperated fully with the Coast Guard and that his mothers death was a tragic accident.

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