Buying a popular, landmark local business sounds like a winning idea, right? But what if that 82-year-old business just announced it's closing?
Veteran booksellers Lanora Hurley and Daniel Goldin are diving in and doing just that.
Hurley will keep the Schwartz Bookshop in Mequon -- in the Pavilions at 10976 N. Port Washington Rd. -- open as "Next Chapter Bookshop" and Goldin transforms the Downer Avenue Schwartz into the "Boswell Book Company."
We talked to each of them about their new jobs as bookshop owners. Here is Hurley's story. (Goldin's will follow soon.)
"I grew up in Cedarburg and as a kid helped my grandmother in her small bookstore in the ‘70s called ABC Bookstore," says Hurley. "But I started my bookselling career at Borders in Columbus, Ohio, in 1994. I also worked for Politics & Prose, a great independent bookstore in Washington, D.C. for a couple of years."
Hurley says a year after returning to the Milwaukee area with her husband in 2001, she found her niche at Schwartz, a place full of like-minded souls.
"When I came on board with Schwartz I felt like I had found a home. The Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops were an amazing company to work for and I would have been content to work for them for the rest of my life," she says.
Despite the state of the economy and the fact that the Schwartz model ultimately failed in the current retailing reality, Hurley believes that she can make a go of a North Shore bookshop on her own.
And don't forget that although Schwartz is closing, it is doing so long, long after most of its fellow indies shuttered in the face of stiff competition from Amazon.com and big chain stores. It fought a valiant fight.
For Hurley, Next Chapter is a dream come true.
"I have wanted to own my own bookstore for a very long time," Hurley says. "When other kids were playing doctor or school, I was playing bookstore. That being said, the transition to owner seems like a natural one for me. Both Carol and Rebecca have been incredibly supportive and kind. I would not have been able to make the transition without them."
Equally important to the transition, says Hurley, are the devoted customers she has come to know at the Mequon shop. She knows they are the key to making Next Chapter a success.
"When I have a mother come back in the store and thank me for recommending a book for her son, who was a reluctant reader, and say to me, ‘He loves it!,' I know that bricks and mortar bookshops still have a place in the community," she says. "When I see 50 people gather in the store for a first time author to hear her talk about her debut book, I know that we are filling a need that you can only get at a bricks and mortar bookshop."
And Hurley believes that even if a multi-store indie can't make it in 2009 in Milwaukee, her shop will have the flexibility needed to, in her words, "weather what is happening now and I think will come out better for it after it is over.
"A big part of the fact that the Mequon store is a good candidate
for survival is that I have a landlord that has been very understanding and willing to work with me. The Mequon store also has a nice location in the Pavilion and great neighbors."
Because Hurley so adored the Schwartz shops and became a part of the family that Harry W. Schwartz and later his son David created -- a spirit carried on by David's wife Carol Grossmeyer and daughter Rebecca Schwartz after his passing in 2004 -- she says a lot about the store will remain the same.
"The Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops did many things right," says Hurley. "It is part of what made them great. I am privileged to have spent the past six years learning from the best in the business. ... I want to keep the same great service our customers have come to expect from us. I am going to retain as many of the same employees as possible. I want to work hard to keep the authors coming to Milwaukee."
But, Hurley is quick to add, she's rethinking everything.
"There are some things the new shop can do to move it forward. I would like to be a little more interactive with other types of media. I want a presence on Facebook, have my staff do regular blogs. I have this vision of having streaming video on the Web site of author events and eventually putting out a ‘best of' author events DVD. I also would like to work on making the store even more of a community center. I have all kinds of ideas I'd like to try from having a lecture series in the store to having a book themed day camp for kids in the summer."
And finally, Hurley and Goldin -- who started at Schwartz in 1986 as a buyer -- have already discussed synergies and potential collaborations to help both shops succeed and help keep independent bookselling alive in Milwaukee.
The two have already agreed to collaborate to continue to bring authors to Milwaukee.
"We both realized early on that if we collaborated that we could help each other," Hurley says.
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.