shaker square bookseller returns to his roots to sell off private collection

Noted Cleveland bookseller Richard Gildenmeister, who first began selling books at Higbees in 1955, opened Richard Gildenmeister at Shaker Square in the 1970s and worked at Joseph-Beth Booksellers until two years ago, is returning to Shaker Square to open a pop up store in a vacant storefront and sell off his private collection.

"We all have dreams and nightmares," says Gildenmeister, who turns 80 this year. "Well, one night I had a dream with all these books moving around in my brain. I woke up and thought, 'Maybe this is a message. I've lived in this apartment 42 years and haven't thrown a scrap away. It's time to get moving.'"

Gildenmeister, who lives in a three-bedroom suite on North Moreland by Shaker Square, soon got on the phone with Peter Rubin, CEO of the Coral Company, which owns Shaker Square. He readily agreed to lease Gildenmeister a vacant space beside Dewey's Coffee Shop, jumping at the chance to bring the beloved bookseller back to the Square, even just for a few weeks.

The near-octogenerian bookseller, whose sale starts April 18th and lasts until the books are all sold, has a collection of 2,000+ volumes that he's held onto for many years. They include signed editions, coffee table books, Cleveland books and poetry, all of which will be sold at deeply discounted rates in this final sale.

Although Gildenmeister is generally gloomy about the future of large bookstores, he believes we are entering a new era in which smaller, independent bookstores will thrive. "The city had a lot of independent bookstores in 1955, and one by one they were knocked off, and then came the big guys. Now they're getting knocked off. I believe many more independent stores will open in niche markets."

Although witnessing the closure of Joseph-Beth was no fun, Gildenmeister says he "never regretted a moment of his career and had a blast." As someone who organized thousands of book signings, Cleveland's book czar hobnobbed with the likes of Lauren Bacall, Barbara Walters and James Baldwin in his time.

Through it all, Shaker Square has remained his home. "I fell in love with Shaker Square when I was a small child. I saw the lights when I was nine years old at Christmastime. Although I live by myself, I never feel alone and always feel connected. When I open my windows, I see the neighborhood going by."

Source: Richard Gildenmeister
Writer: Lee Chilcote
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