If you love books and bookstores and you happened to live in the vicinity of Milwaukee, WI, then that bold fellow brandishing the parchment, displaying the open book and sporting a jaunty panache will be an old friend of yours.
He’s the letter A from the logohead of Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, Milwaukee’s premier independent booksellers. As of next March 31 of this year he will be out of work.
I grieve to report the closing of yet another independent bookstore. “It could not weather the current economic turmoil,” explain the owners in the press release available on their website, “nor the dramatic changes in how people shop in the new century.”
Schwartz Bookshops are a particular favorite of mine. Comfy, ideally browse-able, friendly, large, well-stocked and (at least at the Downer Avenue locale) adjoined to a Starbucks. I love to stop for a book & latte when passing through that city.
It’s heartbreaking. I’ve talked about indy bookstores on this weblog HERE (Mysteries to Die For), and HERE (Vroman’s), and HERE (Diesel’s), and HERE (Townhouse Books), and (in general) HERE, and (with sorrow) HERE. I never wrote about some other fave indies — The Learnéd Owl in Hudson, OH; and Anderson’s Bookshops in Naperville & Downers Grove, IL — but now I wish I had.
Independent bookstores are so much more fun than the useful, but sterile, big box bookstores. They are infinitely more human than the also useful, but rooted-in-the-pits-of-Hell Amazon. Indies provide a little beacon of civility in your neighborhood. They employ locally and pay taxes locally, too. They are venues for meeting your favorite bedraggled author on a reading tour. They are nice places just to go to.
So go. And buy a book.