I am very sad to report that Beverly Segel, Boswellian since day one and long-time Schwartz bookseller, has passed away.
I first met Beverly when I started working at Schwartz in 1986, but did not get to know her well until 1987, when I moved to the Whitefish Bay office. She had not been a bookseller for too many years, but it’s one of the strange things about time that anyone who has worked in a job a day longer than you had been there forever and anyone who started a day after will forever be a newbie.
Beverly bought the mass market paperbacks for the Book Nook, as it was called, and ran all of our inventory reports, which, in the days before personal computers, were frequent and often ran to more than 100 pages. Like any other bookseller, she shelved and pulled returns and worked the register. But mostly, she sold a lot of books, in part because she seemed to know everybody.
And I mean everybody.
For some reason, it is important for me to note here that every day, she got her coffee at Heinemann’s, where she’d also get a pack of chocolate chip cookies. And to my astonishment, she had the willpower to eat the three cookies over several days, instead of finishing them all in short order, like I would. I mention this partly because we discussed this the last time we met for lunch.
When Schwartz did opened and closed some stores in 1993, the gang was split up a bit. Beverly moved to the Shorewood Schwartz bookshop, where she regularly worked the front desk. She was a cheerleader for Schwartz and bookselling, helping her countless managers (I think there were at least six over the course of the store’s 16 years) both with her dependability, enthusiasm, and sage advice.
And then Schwartz closed. And I asked Beverly if she’d come work for me, thinking she might want to retire. But no, she was up to move a bit farther south, and work a couple of days a week on the floor. We promised we’d put in rubber mats behind the register. And I assured her that there was a special space for her behind the store, as she was a bit worried about parking.
And honestly, I don’t know what I would have done without her. She was such a champion of the store. She just knew Boswell would be a success. And every day that she came, my day (and probably countless others) would be brightened by her enthusiasm.
It was also quite helpful that she continued to know everyone. A customer would make a purchase, and she’d turn to me and say, “You know who that was, don’t you?” And of course I didn’t, and she’d fill me in. It might have been someone who'd been coming into Schwartz for years, or perhaps someone she volunteered with, arranging some sort of fundraiser at the Red Carpet Inn on Howell, back when it was swanky.
I also have no doubt that a number of our customers were drawn to the store to see Beverly. No doubt at all.
Since Beverly took a leave from the store, first due to a health issue, and then because of the death of her beloved husband Shel, we’ve felt the loss of her presence. I chatted with her a few times on the phone, and then had lunch one last time at the Glen Cafe on Green Bay Road.
I’d ask if she wanted to officially retire, and she’d say no, she was thinking about coming back when she felt up to it. Perhaps she was worried that if she officially retired, we’d have had a party for her. I’m not sure. But I think it made both of us happy to have her still on the roster, her staff recs filled with newer favorites like Julia Stuart’s The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise and old classics like Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking. Boy did we sell a ton of Home Cooking back at the Book Nook.
She will be greatly missed by a lot of people, not just her family, her friends, and her coworkers, but pretty much anyone who met her.
I’ll add information about funeral arrangements and perhaps a place to make donations in Beverly’s name as soon as I have more information.
Chris Barton talks with Anne Bustard
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