Monday, January 19, 2009


Another Indie Icon Lost: Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops to Close
The Milwaukee-based group of four independent bookstores will close at the end of March after 82 years in business, president Carol Grossmeyer announced on Sunday. General manager Daniel Goldin is buying the store on Downer Avenue, which will be named Boswell Book Company. And Lanora Hurley, manager of the store in Mequon, "is in discussions" to acquire that location, which she would rename Next Chapter Bookshop, the Milwaukee Sentinel reports.

Grossmeyer told the newspaper, "This has been the most emotional six months of my life, and now it's culminating in a decision that was coming for a while. You want to hold onto the bookshops. It feels so much like the fabric of the community. . . . But we really believe that the multiple-store model that we had become, and that had worked so well for us in the 1980s and 1990s, is not feasible anymore." She indicated that sales at the company fell 17 percent in 2008 "on top of a substantial decline the year before."

Goldin says, "I am very excited, though a little sad, too, that Schwartz is closing. This is a very interesting time to be a book retailer. We know there's a lot of change coming, and I feel that you sort of need to start from scratch to do all the things you need to do to make a retailer work.

"I want to be a community destination. I want to work with local groups and I want to keep our reputation for good author events. I'm going to try to be as clever as possible to get the authors to come. . . . And I plan to work with a lot of Shorewood folk, too. I love the Shorewood customers. I've worked there a lot."

Comment: This scenario is being played out across the country. Independent book stores have been a major market for emerging authors but that well is drying up. But as one door closes, another opens. The internet is the future of books. Regardless of the weather or time of day, you can go on-line and order the latest release and have it in a few days. If you like to read on a screen, you can get your book instantly. Okay, it is not like spending a lazy afternoon browsing book shelves, but it is the direction the industry is taking.

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