Having worked at Schwartz Bookshop for years before coming to OnMilwaukee.com, it's a given that I know fellow New York-native Daniel Goldin. We worked together for a long time and roomed together on trips to the annual bookselling convention.
Before coming to Milwaukee to work at Schwartz as a buyer in the mid-1980s, Goldin worked in the publishing industry in New York. He is a walking encyclopedia of retail knowledge and he knows the book world especially well. Therefore, it will be especially interesting to see how this shop run by a Schwartz disciple differs from the Schwartz stores.
So, because we're friends, rather than me telling you about him and his qualifications for transforming the Schwartz Bookshop, 2559 N. Downer Ave., into the single-store Boswell Book Company -- which he hopes will open within days after the closing of Schwartz on March 31 -- I'm going to let him introduce himself to you directly.
OnMilwaukee.com: How and why did you decide to make the leap from bookshop manager to bookshop owner?
Daniel Goldin: I had resolved some years ago that I would not likely own a bookstore. I never wanted to compete with Schwartz in Milwaukee and found the possibility of starting from scratch in a community rather daunting. That said, my partner Kirk and I had contemplated moving to Sacramento around 2000 and visions of bookstores danced in my head. It didn't happen.
Regarding this, I'm different from Lanora (Hurley, who will keep the Mequon Schwartz location open as Next Chapter Bookshop) -- the decision just happened. The opportunity was there, my financing was there and shocking to me as much as anyone, I'm still as passionate as ever after more than 25 years in the business. I contemplate the idea of working 60-70 hours a week to make this bookstore work and instead of wearing me out, I'm elated.
I'm like a Hare Krishna follower in a 1970s airport. I want the world to know that reading books does something to the brain like no other activity. When I'm in love with a book, it's like having sex while eating chocolate and watching a good "The Simpsons" episode. A really good one. I'm talking season four here.
OMC: Are you a little concerned about the state of the industry and the state of the economy?
DG: I'm petrified. I worried about a loan. I worried about a lease. I worry about sales daily. So far everyone's been amazing. I hope to have a nice mix of product, keeping up our amazing selection of bargain books and second hand titles. Instead of a used book room, I'll be integrating new and used like Powell's in Portland (Ore.). And we'll be buying books back from customers for credit, so book junkies can feed their habit with their old stashes. Sorry about overdoing the drug metaphor.
OMC: Besides a passion for books and bookselling, what gives you the most hope for the future of bricks and mortar bookshops?
DG: Browsing online isn't particularly fun. I'm planning a date. We sit in separate rooms and stream a movie on Netflix and then order from Amazon together. Or, we go to the Downer Theater and then browse the bookstore together. By the way, a book of poems is still a very, very romantic gesture. I'd press a flower in it, if I were you.
OMC: What about the Downer location makes it a good candidate for survival, as compared to, say, Brookfield or Shorewood?
DG: Looking for a parking space builds character. Honestly, it's really easy to find spots. Plus we have a parking garage now ... If I want to my residential neighbors to not get mad at me, I must try to not be gleeful. But it is there, hint, hint. Oh, and I love Lynn (Hartwig) at Paperwork and Karen (Tibbitts) at Soaps and Scents. Mike Eitel at Hollander brings a lot of energy to anything he touches. Downer Hardware is so wonderful it makes me cry. And the balsamic chicken salad at Sendik's is beyond. It's beyond. I'd put it up against any other chicken salad in the city. Obama doesn't like mayonnaise, you know. He'd love this one.
OMC: Do you have plans to change anything or are you expecting to keep the shop and its services much as they currently are?
DG: Will it be exactly the same store? It will not. I like to say my vision for a store is the best of Shorewood and the best of Downer. But I do plan to paint the ceiling a lighter color. I have so many ideas for programs and services that my head is spinning. It's best, however, for me to not promise anything. For example, I came up with this idea that customers could pay to have booksellers dance for them. I just don't know if it will work.
OMC: Will you and Lanora work together in any way -- maybe with signings or buying to leverage better discounts from publishers?
DG: Discounts, no. We'll generally buy books separately. Minimums are pretty low in the book world and it's not worth the hassle. You also don't have much in the way of negotiation. There's a possibility of buying gift lines together to make minimums. Regarding events, we've been talking. Right now we're definitely working together, bouncing ideas off each other as we set up shop.
I'm not a fool. I know my customers could buy what they are looking for elsewhere more cheaply. Certainly every customer complaint I get nowadays starts with this acknowledgement. We all make choices. You want some interesting books, lots of events, a third place where you might even wind up talking to -- or admittedly, arguing with -- a stranger, I'll give you that.
You want a place to go with your legs -- oh, I'm also wheelchair accessible -- instead of your mouse, I'll have one. And guess what? I'll have a Web site, too, if it's all about convenience. You want me to employ some people and pay some taxes, I'll do it. You don't want that? Come visit me anyway. You might enjoy yourself more than you expected.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.