By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jun 17, 2009 at 8:09 AM

The other day a group hoping to open a co-op bookshop announced its plans to put that store in the former Schwartz Bookshop, 4093 N. Oakland Ave., in Shorewood.

"It will be a bookstore for the community, created by the community, said organizer Keith Schmitz, in a statement. "The closing of the Harry W. Schwartz bookstore on Oakland Ave. created a big void in the community. "It's a void we plan to close," said Schmitz. "We see it as an important quality of life issue."

It's great to see the passion for indie bookselling in Milwaukee continues after the demise of Schwartz and Broad Vocabulary.

Recently, the group met at Hubbard Park Lodge and it turns out that there are apparently 300-400 willing co-op members, who would have to pay a one-time $50 membership.

They aim to open the new shop, called Open Book, by fall 2009, offering typical independent bookshop services.

It's true that the Shorewood location was a vibrant one for Schwartz. I remember helping to open it and that excitement was high. That it had a stellar staff went a long way in making the Shorewood Schwartz location a quick success. 

Of course, there was a need not only for a bookshop, but for a social "great place" like Schwartz.

Bookshop manager Lisa Zupke said that the social component is key to the Open Book plan.

"We want it to be a community gathering place where friends and neighbors meet for coffee, and small groups hold meetings. That's something the community sorely needs."

Co-op members, in return for their membership fee, will receive discounts, invites to special events and, when possible, an annual dividend.

And that's the tough part. Independent bookstores have been in crisis for years. In recent years, Milwaukee has lost not only the Schwartz Bookshops -- and it's no reach to say those were a long-standing city institution -- as well as Broad Vocabulary in Bay View.

There are plans to re-open that shop as a co-op, too.

Margins in the book retailing business are slim and competition from online and chain shops is fierce. In today's stumbling economy, opening a new indie is risky business. But let's hope 400 eager charter members and a hungry community can make Open Book thrive and without cherry picking customers from Daniel Goldin's Boswell Book Co. on Downer Avenue and Lanora Hurley's Next Chapter Bookshop in Mequon -- both in former Schwartz locations.

Open Book will hold an informational meeting at Hubbard Park City Room, 3565 N. Morris Blvd., on July 1 at 7 p.m.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

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 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.