Brentano’s Bookstore’s Location History.
Chicago Tribune, August 7, 1927
Boulevardiers who have often found themselves late for appointments by reason of the the delectable display in the windows of Adolph Kroch’s International book shop at 22 North Michigan avenue shortly will have to propel their feet a few blocks north should they desire to taste his literary lotus leaves for a few moments’ surcease from the cares of the city.
It seems that Mr. Kroch has just concluded an 18 year lease a store between Toby’s and or Ovington’s in the building at the north west corner of Michigan and Lake. However he would not move into his new headquarters until about December 1 and to alleviate further any suffering on the part of book gazers he’ll not vacate his present store until May 1928
Mr. Kroch’s new shop Will be located at 204 – 10 North Michigan was a frontage of 60 feet. He will also occupy the second floor and basement at this address which will give him an area of approximately 20,000 sq. ft. The amount of rental he will pay the lessor the McCormick estate is not disclosed
Mr. Kroch entered the book selling business in Chicago for himself 20 years ago in a tiny shop on Monroe Street. From there he moved to his present location on Michigan where he has been for 15 years. In that time he has built up a business that is made from one of the most important figures in Chicago’s book world. And all that he has left again him undying fame is to devise a system whereby book borrowers Will always return to owners prized volumes period
W. H. Ames and L. M. Willis & Co. negotiated the lease. Fred lowenthal was attorney for Mr. Kroc..
Chicago Tribune, December 12, 1927
The realization of a dream of twenty years is Mr. A. Kroch’s new bookstore at 206 North Michigan avenue. It was opened Thursday with a tea and the guests were shown the very last word in a modern bookshop. Walnut shelves and sage green walls walls frame the shop, and cases for books with shelves above them on which special volumes can be displayed form aisles through the shop.
The most impressive thing to any one who has ever had to do with many books in the mass is that many of the shelves are glassed in. There is nothing dustier on earth—unless it s a cement factory—than rows of books in Chicago. Under the shelves, which work on the principle of sectional bookcases, there are strong rests, like the ones they have in catalogue rooms in libraries, upon which books can be laid—an ingenious scheme. In the balcony Mr. Koch has a print room, offices, and stock rooms. It is a very handsome shop, and was in such perfect order that it was hard to believe that on Monday morning there wasn’t a book in the place, and on Thursday one hundred and fifty thousand were in their destined places.
Kroch’s Book Store
New York Daily News, March 31, 1933
Seven large publishing houses yesterday petitioned Brentano’s Inc., world’s largest bookshop, into bankruptcy.
Filing of the petition and came within twenty-four hours of the withdrawal from the concern of three creditor– trustees who have controlled its affairs for three years.
John W. Hiltman,chairman; George P. Brett, secretary, and W. Morgan Shuster, stated upon withdrawal that they did not consider Brentano’s bankrupt but feared it might become so “through the short-sighted attitude of certain creditors, who, unfortunately, happened to be publishers.”
Signers of the petition in the United States District court, with the amount they say are due them were:
Dodd, Mead & Co., Inc. $11,000
Harcourt, Bruse & Co., Inc., $15,900
Houghton Mifflin & Co., $15,750
Charles Scribner’s Sons, $19,000
Blue Ribbons Books, Inc., $600
Grossett & Dunlap, Inc., $1,400
Frederick A. Stokes Co., he thousand nine hundred$8,900
Chicago Tribune, June 9, 1933
New York, June 18.—An appeal from the decision of Peter B. Olney Jr., referee, in knocking down the bankrupt book swelling firm of Brentano’s, Inc., at public auction to Adolph Kroch of Chicago for $121,000 will be taken by the Manufacturer’s Trust company, it isn announced by attorneys for the bank. They will seek to have the sale set aside on the grounds that it was not properly conducted, that the highest and best bid was not accepted, and that the creditors’ committee was not entirely composed of creditors.
Mr. Koch’s bid of $71,000 cash and 52½ per cent of the collections from accounts receivable, with a guaranteed minimum of $50,000, was $1,000 higher than the bid made by A. Schaap & Sons, auctioneers, of 394 Broadway, and $1,485 higher than a series of parcel bids by a long list of prospective buyers.
Chicago Tribune, September 12, 1937
Plans for enlargement of the Kroch Book Store at 206 North Michigan were outlined yesterday by A. Kroch. The space adjoining on the north, at No. 208, has been acquired. The walls between the two stores will be removed and book selling space enlarged 50 per cent.
A new modern store front, sixty feet wide, will be installed and the entire premises will be air conditioned. Approximately $25,000 will be spent in modernizing and enlarging the Kroch store, it was asserted.
A. Kroch owns and operates seven book stores, two in Detroit and five in Chicago. The new addition on North Michigan will be opened on Nov.1.
206-208 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago Tribune, November 21, 1954
Hailed as “the world’s largest book store,” Kroch’s & Brentano’s will open for business tomorrow morning at 29 S. Wabash av., Chicago. It will occupy three and one one-half floors and cover more than 40,000 square feet. It will be a monument to the genius of Adolph Kroch, perhaps the most famous of America’s booksellers.
A few Chicagoans can recall the brisk morning in November, 1907, when Mr. Kroch opened a small store on E. Monroe st., between Wabash av. and Michigan blvd. Still a young man, he had been assured by one of the wisest booksellers of the day that the profession, as it was then called, was not for him.
“You are not the type,” this expert told him. “You are not a good salesman, and there is no reason to suppose that you will ever be able to transfer to your customers your own personal enthusiasm for good literature. I strongly advise you to go into some other business.”
Disregarding this sage advice, the youth persisted until, 10 years later, he found it possible and practicable to move to a much larger store at 22 N. Michigan av. One of the pioneers invading that avenue, Kroch’s International bookstore became the hangout of the literary greats. In 1927 it moved to still larger quarters, this time at 206 N. Michigan av., where it is still prospering. At the end of this year the stock there will be transferred to Kroch’s & Brentano’s newly acquired Dennison store on Randolph st. and to the new shop on Wabash av., where the firm’s headquarters will be.
Throughout the various early moves, the store was visited by the Galsworthys, the Walpoles, the Swinnertons, and others among Great Britain’s leading craftsmen. They called on “Papa”Kroch for suggestions on how they could get in on those fabulous American royalties. And there were frequent visits by American authors seeking advice of the man who had been told that his enthusiasm for books could not be instilled in others.
“Do you think ‘Main Street’ will sell?” asked an ambitious young man named Sinclair Lewis. An Oak Park youngster, Ernest Hemingway, edged in a little closer as “Papa” chatted with such notables as Harry Hansen and Ben Hecht. (This, of course, was in the days when H. L. Mencken was dubbing Chicago “the literary capital of America.”)
The store was an autograph seeker’s paradise. A person could, by waiting outside the office of the proprietor, be pretty sure of meeting a literary giant, a star from the entertainment world, an industrialist, or a celebrated politician. When a Mme. Whosis dropped in, after having thrilled thousands the evening before with her arias at the Auditorium, the proprietor would suggest that she autograph a few copies of Kobbe’s “Oper Book” for those who might be interested in music. It was the same in all other fields of endeavor.
In 1933, at the invitation of the committee of American publishers, Mr. Koch acquired the Chicago branch of Brentano’s, Inc., “Booksellers to the World,” and the right to use that name in Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin. In 1951, to the amazement of nearly everyone in the book industry, he retired, bought a home in Laguna Beach, Cal., and turned the business over to his son, Carl A. Kroch. Nearly everyone had insisted that “Pap” would never retire.
Today Carl Kroch is president of Kroch & Brentano’s and W. W. Goodpasture, long the head of Brentano’s, Inc., is vice president and general manager of the combined companies. The two are credited with the intelligence needed to put over their latest venture.
About a year ago Carl Kroch decided that bookselling is no different from the selling of foods or other staples. “If the future of food distribution is involved in the theory behind the supermarkets.” he said, “why shouldn’t the publishing industry consider mammoth sized book stores as the answer to its distribution problems?”
So Messrs. Kroch and Goodpasture have merged the 47 year old firm of Kroch’s with the more than 100 year old firm of Brentano’s. The result is a store that Chicagoans, together with visitors to this city, will flock to see, along with the Art Institute, the Museum of Science and Industry and the other Chicago attractions.
The 80 foot front is divided equally between books for adults and those for children. One side of the rear part of the main store is devoted to greeting cards; the other side is devoted to stationery and miscellaneous gifts. On the mezzanine are old and rare books, foreign language and art books, and the print department. The technical, social science, and education departments occupy one-half of the basement; the other half is occupied by what Carl Kroch has chosen to call “the Super Book Mart.”
This last named store within a store is highly distinctive. More than 4,000 paperbound books will be on display there and several thousand harbound reprints also will be available.
“It can reasonably be assumed,” Mr. Kroch says, “that any good volume published over a period of years can be had in ‘the Super Book Mart’ in a reprint edition, and at a reasonable price.”
Chicago Tribune, March 31, 1958
Chicago Tribune, April, 29, 1995
By Genevieve Buck, Tribune Staff Writer.
With about a dozen shoppers flipping through the newest magazines, another 30 or so waiting in line to get writer Ed McBain’s autograph on their copies of “Romance,” plus assorted book-lovers scattered among tables and shelves filled with the printed word, the Kroch’s & Brentano’s store at 29 S. Wabash Ave. Friday hardly looked unprofitable.
But it was a lunchtime crowd. And a celebrity author was attracting his fans.
And magazine flippers and autograph seekers who may make occasional purchases-as well as assorted but rare book-lovers looking for arcane titles and still willing to often pay full price-aren’t enough to support a book store, especially if a Crown Books and B. Dalton Bookseller are less than two blocks away.
In a continuing retrenchment that began with the closing of 10 outlying stores in 1993, Kroch’s & Brentano’s Inc. said Friday the venerable headquarters store on Wabash, as well as its store at 1028 Lake St. in Oak Park, will close, probably in 60 to 75 days.
Kroch’s will continue to operate its three remaining stores at 516 N. Michigan Ave., 30 N. LaSalle St. and 1530 E. 53rd St. in Hyde Park. A headquarters site had not been determined as of Friday.
Founded in 1907, Chicago’s oldest independent bookstore chain had gone from a high of 19 stores with revenues at well over $35 million in the early 1990s, to 9 stores and $12 million in 1993.
Industry sources estimated 1994 revenues from the five stores were $10 million.
Although Kroch’s had begun discounting best sellers and engaged in promotional efforts to counteract superstores, the bookseller could not compete effectively. William W. Rickman, Kroch’s president and chief executive officer, said “aggressive expansion by national superstore book chains,” plus changing shopping patterns in the Loop and Oak Park determined the closings.
Bankruptcy is “certainly not” being considered, he said Friday during a telephone interview. “The remaining stores are profitable. Ownership has no intention or need to seek bankruptcy protection.”
Ownership, in fact, is moving in the other direction, he said. “They did not acquire us to run the existing configuration.”
Rickman said Businesship International, the Florida holding company that purchased Kroch’s from Carl A. Kroch at the end of 1993, is searching for a Chicago-area location for “the concept store that is the centerpiece of the company’s publicly stated plans for Kroch’s & Brentano’s future growth and expansion.”
Such a store, which will be a prototype for two or three other stores, he said, would be “heavily geared to media and education. Traditionally, the things of bookstores-information, entertainment, life enhancement-have been disseminated in book, i.e. printed, form. Now, as the digital revolution evolves, such information will be presented (at the new Kroch’s) through technology and through hands-on instruction or face-to-face educational encounters.”
He said “CD ROM, lectures, possibly lessons” would be part of this “bookstore of the future,” but would offer no other details. “No one else is doing this at this time,” he said. It would have some aspects, notably “social,” of other superstores, but would break new ground.
“The confluence of capital-which we don’t have here at Kroch’s & Brentano’s-and design would have to come together before proceeding,” said Rickman, which would mean that “what we intended to do in ’94 may come about in late ’95 or early ’96.”
Meanwhile, on Friday, some 50 full- and part-time employees were being informed of the impending closings of the two stores, and plans were being made to start clearance sales at the two stores.
At the Wabash Store, Jackie Diehl, of Dyer, Ind., a 25-year customer of Kroch’s, was in the line snaking toward author Dunning. Her first question, upon hearing the store-closing news, was, “Will they keep the First Edition Circle book club?” She said she’d been a member for as long as she could remember because “it was responsible for turning me on to authors I’d never read before.” (Rickman said clubs, the Chat catalog and other such services would be retained.)
Also in line, a saddened Derek Mannering said the Kroch’s store was a favorite place for a weekly visit because “it reminds me of a European bookstore. It’s nice, it’s book friendly,” said the author, who moved to Chicago from Ireland 18 months ago.
On hearing the news, Pat Peterson, co-owner of Barbara’s Bookstore, said, “I can’t believe this. It means Kroch’s and I have the same number of bookstores. It’s the saddest possible news for Chicago.”
Peterson will add another store this summer at Navy Pier; others are on Broadway, in Old Town and in Oak Park.
She said that about 20 booksellers, including Kroch’s Rickman, had recently joined forces as the Independent Booksellers of the Chicago Area “to pool our energies, raise consciousness and market ourselves as an alternative to national booksellers.” The group expects to expand to 30 and encompass the North Shore area and western suburbs.
A customer looks over the new book table at Kroch’s & Brentano’s Michigan Avenue store. The books were marked down in anticipation of the store’s closing.
The Publisher’s Weekly, May 21, 1921
The Bookseller and Stationer, June 1, 1921
When I was approached to speak on this subject, I felt rather embarassed. To speak in a general way is naturally the easiest but also the most superficial way, as it lacks the convincing power of actual proof. To speak specifically, would require speaking of myself, which might create the impression of self-advertising. I have. however, decided to face such an. accusation in the hope that my experience may be of benefit to some of my fellow-members.
During my business life, I have tried to know myself, to analyze my own motives, to study the public with whom I came in contact, to consider my possibilities and limitations, and will attempt to give the truthful and self-analytical trend of my thought.
I am starting wth a terrible confession. I am not what you may call a regularly trained bookseller. In my home-town, as a student, I have spent most of my leisure time in reading and browsing around in bookshops, where with my small allowance, I was gathering together an interesting nrivate library. From my early youth, I felt the amenities of book-collecting, and this incomparable joy taught me the -psychology of the hookbuyer. The one group of men ‘I have then admired were the hookmen. Such a wonderful profession, I thought: all you have to do is to read and caress fine books, and even if you have to part with them at times, new ones will replace the loss. You meet oharming people who share your book-joys, discuss with them your favorite authors, and you add to their happiness by letting them have the books they crave. Those were my boyish dreams: I still have them, and to those boyish dreams I attribute my business success. I still share with my clients the joys they get from reading the good books which I recommend.
When I came to this land of unlimiteij possibilities, my first thought was of books. The statue of Liberty with its outstretched arm, shining in the darkness was to me the personification of freedom borne out of knowledge, I heard and read wonders of this “God’s Country” and was convinced that people with such lofty ideals must be all baaklowrs. After a short odyssey, I found myself as clerk in a foreign bookstore. I was happy, and even the mastery of a book-duster did not dim my enthusiasm. I learned there by contrast and began to feel terribly important. Here, I was permitted to talk to strangers, who soon be came my friends, about the -books I loved; I sold them the books and they came back for more. And why? Because I offered them something I knew, something I loved, and because I transmitted to them my honest enthusiasm. All this was unobtrusive, genuine and not forced. And here, you have the first three points of the successful bookseller:
1. Know your books.
2. Become enthusiastic over them.
3. Transmit this enthusiasm to your clients.
Windows Reveal Shop’s Soul
When I founded my own bookstore, it was but natural that I should follow these rules. I gathered together books that I knew, not merely a -haphazard selection, but only such books as appealed personally to my literary taste, and with unfaltering conviction that those books would appeal to my clients. The next task was my window. I realized from the start that the window was to bare in)’ business soul which was a chaos trying to embrace all good books, and accordingly I so arranged my first window. I was so proud of my books that everyone was to receive a preferred position, but the more I loved a book the better the position. So the window be came mv real business card, the expression of my individuality. The public noticed the expression, caught the spirit and began to come in. I talked to them about my books, it was I who led the conversation. I spoke to them about the subject I knew best, about the books I loved, and evoked in them the desire to know more about the books I spoke about. Here is the fourth point for the successful bookseller: Make the public want the books you want them to read. In my present book store, with yearly booksales of about a quarter of a million dollars, over 90 per cent of the books sold my me and my assistants are our recommendations, and less than 10 per cent direct requests. ‘
This actual power to mold the mental requirements of the public must be wielded with tact discretion and absolute honesty.
I have succeeded in impressing my clients with the fact that the reading of good books is not only a pastime, a sport of a thousand thrills but also a most profitable occupation, as it elevates the reader above the dull crowd, offers him the best topic of conversation among intelligent people, and entitles him to the privileges of the only true aristocracy, the aristocracy of mind. He can also share this distinction and pay the finest compliment to his friends’ intcllects by giving to them books or gifts on any and every occasion. To be met in a bookstore, known for its good books, is really a worthwhile distinction.
The mentally alert bookseller has a further opportunity, if not duty, to improve the taste of the reading public. When a genuine effort is made to impress the reader with the beauties of literature in contrast to the shallowness of near literature, it will usually meet with success. It has to be done gradually, tactfully and persistently. The bookseller’s own enthusiasm for literature and his belief that the public is susceptible to good books are his best assistants. Genuine gratitude of attached potent book-biiyers will be the adviser’s reward.
As my book-purchases became noticeable, they began to attract the attention of the publishers’ representatives. Soon I discovered a new ant “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies” among those representatives who thought they knew more about my wants than I myself, and were anxious to find a resting place for their would-be remainders. But the short-sighted salesmen soon gave me up in despair, and my arrogant endeavor to find out more about the books than the size, price and a few ill-fitting commonplace phrases met with resentment. But there were others who endeavored to appreciate my position, who were either prepared to answer my inquisitive questions or offered me an opportunity to answer the questions myself. They understood that my mode of buying was not a matter of favoritism. but merely an honest desire to convince myself whether ‘I was fit to sell the book in question, and whether I could find the reader to fit the book. An important factor was whether the book would fit in with the rest of my hook family without causing an unpleasant discord. My rule is quite simple: I never buy a book in appreciable quantities unless I have had an opportunity to read the book myself, or know of it sufficiently to be able to describe it intelligently. Large special works are never bought iinless I can visualize prospective clients. Tihrii reading literary journals. I am keeping myself informed and have also a standing order with my British agents for sample copies of every new work of the more prominent English authors and of any widely read book. I believe that there is always a valid reason, either positive or negative, why a book attracts especial attention. If the book is important, I prepare my public for the American edition. place my advance order in sufficient quantities, and plan my selling campaign.
The American publishers keep me posted, well in advance, on their new publications, and are almost without exception willing, since they know my requirements, to co-operate with me. Every book, which I purchase, whether important or quite insignificant receives its proper attention. It is a mental heart to heart talk between myself and the book and a merci less examination as to a properly appealing but truthful talking point. “I cannot sell a book without a talking point, as I must find a reason for offering it to my clients. The talking point is the soul of a book, with it, it is a living being, without it, it turns into that despicable creature: the plug. When I have gathered all the information about the book, I cannot only face the most inquisitive client, but as a matter of fact, I invite his questions and am prepared to answer them intelligently. If in spite of all the precautions my judgment is wrong and the book for any reason does not fit the reader, he has naturally the exchange privilege. and I try to impress him with the fact that I am sincerely grateful to him for an opportunity to correct the error. I have always practiced this guaranteed system.
One Book Sells Another
Every book has its soul-mate and thru the simple process of associating ideas the soulmate, even if it is of a different temperament, can also find its way to the client. In one word: One -book sells another, either immediately or later on, and it is unwise to break this living chain by selling a book that is unsuitable to the purchaser.
To reach the client whom ‘I cannot meet face to face, I write personal letters or short notes in which I give plaiisihle reasons for offering the book. I find long elaborate circulars quite useless. To remain in close touch with clients who carry an account with me. I have inaugurated a service of “One Book a Month” of my own selection.
Books by American authors have been always closest to my heart, an almost Chauvinistic pride in our wonderful intellectual development as a nation makes me. often indulgent towards some natural shortcomings of the virile youngster the “Modern American Literature.” The freshness and boldness of ]ohnnie Weaver. the sturdy idealism of Willa Cather, Frederick O’Brien’s marvelous capacity for evoking naizan loiigintzs. Cabell’s exquisite neo-romanticism. and dozens of others. whom I could mention, they all offer wonderful talking-points. I am listing the readers of leading American authors, holding my army in readiness for any new attack. A_small note announcing the birth of “a new child” always arouses curiosity, a new Fitzgerald. the long awaited Osborn, another Newton. a Mencken make my clients forget any dreariness of life.
It is not sufficient to have the right books on the shelves. they must be properly displayed. The public will not look for the books. but the books must court the prospective reader’s favor. Dignified, harmonious arrangement, according to subjects and easily accessible, always within reach, with an eye to harmony of col or and form, will create an atmosphere of unobtrusive dignity. But I have no patience with the home-surrounding imitations. A book store is not a home, and a fireplace will not create a home-atmosphere. The client must be impressed with the bookstore’s primary necessity to sell him the books he will like, and there is no reason for obscuring this effort. The visitor should not feel out of place, not awed by impressive tomes but greeted by old acquaintances and tempted by possible new friends.
In my shop, I have avoided monotony and have endeavored to impress the visitor with a
further thought that books are not only the best mental companions, but also ideal interior decorations.
Bookseller as Adviaor
Next in importance to proper selection of books is my efiort in surrounding myself with suitable assistants. They must be capable of keeping up the undying fire of enthusiasm. They must understand that the clients’ interests, their’s and mine are alike. Honest, cheerful service must be their watchword, expressed in harmonious teamwork. But here I must touch upon a sore spot in our profession. The material to draw upon is quite limited. To remedy it, there should be formed bookselling schools and not merely evening classes. A two-year university course in general literature and business methods, one year apprenticeship in a well—conducted bookstore. a final examination before the board of the Booksellers’ Association would entitle the successful candidate to a degree of a B. C., Book Counselor. With such material we could approach a plan of the utmost importance to the welfare of our profession, a great national booksellers’ campaign.
We must impress the public with the fact that the bookseller is the logical mental advisor, that he is the one who awakens the mind of the child, moulds the thought of youth, and broadens the view of the mature man or woman, that he is The Practical Idealist.
We must impress the bookseller himself with the seriousness and great responsibility of his noble vocation and the public with the fact that trust placed with him will not be misplaced.
PRESIDENT HERB: I would be very glad to hear a discussion of Mr. Kroch‘s most interesting paper. He speaks with an air of authority.
MR. GEORGE H. BRETT, JR.: Kroch‘s speech and others that we have heard yesterday have brought to my mind the necessity of perhaps a warning against “Buy a Book a Week.” Mr. Kroch pointed out the necessity of personality in salesmanship in the bookstore.
It seems to me that if we have the slogan “Buy a Book a Week” it means any book
bought from any bookseller. I think that we should pick out the book to fit each customer. If we must have such a slogan, I would suggest “Read a Book a \/Veek” is a better slogan than “Buy a Book a Week.”
That perhaps does not work in so well from the point of view of the retailer because it may be said then that people will go to the public libraries to get the books. But I think that if the booksellers do get together and have more intelligent service on the floor, always striving for more intelligent service on the part of their book salesmen, that more books can be sold. And if we keep away from the “Buy a Book a Week” slogan and get over some other slogan equally interesting. but one that rreans something a little bit more definite, we will do better.
PRESIDENT HERB: I think we are very fortunate in being favored with the help of a gentleman who has made a study of business methods, especially in the field of department stores. We all recognize the fact that department stores do get hold of some of the best selling methods. I take great pleasure in introducing Carl H. Fast, Department Store Counsel, who will speak on our general subject from the department store standpoint.