In researching independent bookstores, I found that a few that survived the longest did so because of second and third generations joining the family business to keep it going. Although this is not the case for everyone, many of the children who grew up in their parents' bookstores developed a love of books, an acumen for business and customer service, and a vested interest in being a part of the communities that their stores served.
Isaac Mendoza had not one but three sons - Aaron, Mark, and David - to take over his bookstore after he died in 1937. In a 1988 issue of Antiquarian Bookman, Jacob Chernofsky wrote, "Isaac Mendoza in his time, and Aaron and David, all had a profound influence on the trade and on individuals who looked to them for guidance;" customer Frederick Lightfoot also remembered Aaron Mendoza as one of the few rare-book dealers "who took time out from marking books, etc. to talk with me and establish genuine rapport and eventually friendship" (Mondlin and Meador 22). David Mendoza managed the store until his death in 1972 at which point family friend Walter Caron bought it from David's wife Gilda.
The Samuel Weiser Bookstore was also able to survive as long as it did in New York (1926 to the early 1990s) thanks to Samuel's brother Ben and his son Donald continuing the business after Samuel had a heart attack and was forced to slow down. Ben and Donald "kept Weiser's a world leader in the occult field" and managed the company's expansion into publishing reprinted and original titles (Mondlin and Meador 100). Although Donald retired in 2005, Weiser Antiquarian Books lives on as an online and by-appointment bookseller in York Beach, Maine.
Father and daughter team Fred Bass and Nancy Bass-Wyden co-own the Strand Bookstore together, continuing the bookselling legacy Fred's father Ben Bass began in 1927. In an interview with Gothamist in 2005, Nancy recalled growing up in the bookstore:
One of my earliest memories is going to the kids' books section with my hands out and saying I could have any book I wanted! I wanted to help out all the time. I remember as a toddler asking the employees if I could sharpen their pencils. And then I was always recruited to work here, answering phones in the summers, I cashiered a lot, worked in the review section, on the main floor. (Abraham 2005)
Nancy joined the store full-time after receiving her MBA and helped modernize the store, encouraging her father to undertake a remodeling and add air conditioning. She was also involved in the store's decision to begin selling books online in the early 2000s.
Over in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, former couple Henry Zook and Mary Gannett along with their 27-year-old son Zack own and manage BookCourt together. In an interview with Publisher's Weekly, Zack Zook recalled his own upbriging as the child of booksellers, which sounds much like Nancy Bass-Wyden's recollection:
"The second we moved into the building, I was immersed in this world of business and literature,” says Zook. “I was exposed to a lot of different elements. I was eight or nine when it really drew me in. I remember hanging out with employees for an entire shift, listening to them talk with customers, listening to the questions customers asked. I heard my parents talk shop at home. With that came an appreciation of this community and the effect of literature on a community. I'm kind of biased because BookCourt feels like a center point for me." (Rosen 2008)
These second and third generations are helping carry independent bookstores into the future, and it will be interesting to see how they evolve their businesses as the climate for buying and consuming books continues to evolve.
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