As promised a couple posts ago, I'd like to spend a little time on the fact "not all free is good". Book fans of all stripes are all too aware of that theory since Milwaukee became Schwartz Bookstores-free.
Schwartz bookshops served the Cream City community for 82 years, since 1927, when Harry Schwartz started his first store in the back of a beauty shop. And didn't only serve by selling books. He supported local and national authors with in-store book signings, and... at times... with his checkbook (funding the publication of books).
Schwartz was succeeded by his family and, eventually, opened 5 stores in total. This feat marked Schwartz Bookstores as the most successful independent bookstore chain in the state, if not the country. Of course, times change and people often change with it. Internet shopping, large corporate bookstore chains, and a shaky economy have all contributed to hard times for the Schwartz family. In early 2009, shoppers on Schwartz's mailing list received the official news the stores would be closing at the end of March. This is truly sad news for a community which seems so proud to support locally-owned business.
Could anything have been done to save the stores? Probably not, but it does raise the question of what waits for us in the future. What happens to the local comic book shops? Where will independent/self-published authors sell their wares now? Will life for those authors be the same, if they cannot establish personal relationships with the people responsible for selling their artwork? Time will tell.
On the upside of Cream City sons making good on their life passion, I've added a new link to the Cream City links listing. Damian Valentine Mayek, working simply as Damian Valentine Music, has an amazing story about what can happen to those who pursue their dreams with self-belief. Please check out his site, especially the bio section, to learn more about this amazing musical and visual artist.
Hats off to Schwartz and Mayek for giving the Cream City faithful one more reason to be proud of the city they hail as home.