Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Note on Social Profit from the AP Story

In a recent blog, I noted the wonderful AP story from Chris Talbott about Ann Patchett's new Parnassus Books*, where I was most graciously referenced.  Long-time Milwaukeeans are well aware of my shout out to the social profit, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that a lot of my customers don't know that the phrase comes straight from the mouth of the long-time owner of the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, A. David Schwartz.

Well, we can't have that! Allow me to give you some background.

Schwartz's social profit statement is almost legendary in the book business.  My friend Carol H. (and I don't think she would be upset if I noted this) has a copy of the same broadside that was made by Coffee House Press for Schwartz's 75 anniversary in her office at Harvard Bookstore as I do in both of mine (home and work).  I bet she's not the only one.

It reads:
"Bookselling was and is for me a cultural and political expression, an expression of political change, of challenge to authority, of a search for a community of values which can act as an underpinning of a better world.  The true profit in bookselling is the social profit; the bottom line, the measure of the impact of the bookshop on the community."

Now I'm not David Schwartz, not by a long shot. Schwartz was a larger than life character, to me at least, and I'm definitely not. My politics is more muted, and I interpret his statement for more in the context of community and cultural good. My ideological journey was strictly through the bookstore, with no detours to collectives. That said, his statement speaks to me as strongly as ever.

Aside from the Boswell icon itself, I don't keep too many Schwartz references on the walls of the bookstore.  I wanted folks to understand that we were starting fresh. Now that we've been around for a while (note to our pal Jessie--844 days), I feel more comfortable referencing our Schwartz origins. But of late, you'll notice a tinted photo of Reva Schwartz in the fiction section that our friend Eric gave to the store.  Eric, I apologize for cropping the painting--you can see the original at Boswell.

In addition to Eric and Mrs. Schwartz, with whom I shared numerous crunchy tuna sandwiches from Heinemann's, in the painting there is also Mrs. Schwartz's customer and friend, Min Kleiger.  I hope I spelled her last name correctly--she is one of my fondest memories from my first couple of years at Schwartz, when I worked on the floor at the Iron Block store.

Kleiger was an early lesson in what a customer relationship could be. She loved us; we loved her; everyone loved books. In the words of Ina Garten, how easy is that?

So we're at the close of this post; I'm not going to speculate on what David Schwartz thought of the store. Who am I kidding?  Of course I am. I'm told by folks, including Carol G., that he would have would like it. Rebecca S. has told me more than once that he would be delighted with the curated look of our vestibule. I know there are certain parts that would drive him crazy.  But the idea that I look at his social profit statement every day?  I think he'd be just fine with that.

This time I link to the Buffalo News, since I like Buffalo and especially Talking Leaves Books.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you Daniel - that was a lovely thing to read. And I so enjoyed the picture of Reva and Min!!!! Classic.
Indeed, David would be so pleased with Boswell's - he always said you were a superior merchant - and so you are.

Carol G