Schwartz Bookshops was an arts incubator, albeit an unintentional one. During the roughly 10 years I worked there, I worked alongside talented poets, aspiring novelists, musicians, visual artists, filmmakers.
You had to love books to get a job at Schwartz. Late owner David Schwartz pretty much made that an inescapable requisite. So, it stands to reason the staff had an artsy bent. Being around creative people all the time also helped, often subtly, encourage still more creativity.
The shop at 2559 N. Downer Ave. that I was honored to play a small role in opening in 1997 was an especially creative – if not always excessively profitable – place. It is there that I met Brent Gohde, who is the force behind Cedar Block which presents "May The Schwartz Be With You" Saturday night at Turner Hall Ballroom at 8 p.m.
"Basically the show comes from the fact that everyone I've met over the past 15 years – and every opportunity I've had – can be traced directly back to the day I was hired at the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop on Downer Avenue," Gohde says.
"The people I met have become my closest friends. We'll explore the notion that Schwartz was a cultural nexus for Milwaukee, dating back to Casanova, and continuing with Boswell."
Casanova was the name of Harry Schwartz's first bookshop, located in the back of a hair salon further north on Downer Avenue and Boswell is the bookstore, run by former Schwartz lifer Daniel Goldin in the old Schwartz shop on Downer.
Participating at the wide-ranging multimedia event are Bridget Griffith Evans, Brooklyn Henke, Joe Kirschling, Lia Manley-Deruiter, Ashley Morgan, Kara Mulrooney, Amy O'neil, KPOLLY, Chris Rosenau, Steve Schlei, Mark Waldoch and Jim Warchol.
Gohde says he'll also moderate a chat with some of the folks who worked at the shop, which closed in 2009.
"I'm actually going to have a little roundtable during the show for former coworkers and new friends to share stories about their experiences with the bookshop."
Tickets are $15 and available at the door or by calling (414) 382-6044.
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.