News & Opinion

800-CEO-READ Remembers Avin Mark Domnitz

Sally Haldorson

July 02, 2015


"He always said he was a bookseller, first and foremost."

Decades ago, Avin Mark Domnitz partnered with A. David Schwartz to both consolidate (as needed) and expand (as desired) the independent book business in Milwaukee. His Book Nook, and several Dickens discount bookstores combined with the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, which, in time, became our company, 800-CEO-READ. In the late 90s, he left to head up the American Booksellers Association, bringing his passion for bookselling to independent bookstores all over the country. This week, Avin passed away, leaving those of us who knew him with joyful, yet bittersweet, memories, and those of us who hadn't, a deep gratitude for the role he played in the evolution of our company.

Carol Grossmeyer, owner and CEO:

"I remember Avin for his great love of the book business ("The book business saved me!"), his natural talent for keeping the numbers straight ("Cash is King!"), his incredible warmth, and, of course, his ever-present sense of humor."

Rebecca Schwartz, owner and Board President:

"Avin took me to buy my first car.  Tim was away at law school and I cannot recall if my father was just busy at the time or out of town, but I needed someone who had much more experience than I to accompany me to the ranch house in Bayside and determine whether I had something for which it was worth making an offer.  (As I learned to drive very late—due in part to a fiasco with my father at the DMV when I was 16—I really had no idea what I was doing, both as a fairly newly-minted driver and as a first-time car owner.)  I remember that Avin was not only willing but great—generous and knowledgeable and funny.  He literally kicked the tires of that silver Horizon to make sure, he said, that the thing "won't fall apart on us before we get it out of the driveway."  It was on his recommendation that I not feel bashful to tell the seller that I wanted to take the car to a mechanic down the road for a once-over.  I ended up buying that car and, more importantly, learned how to buy it—thanks to Avin."

Tim Truel, Board member

Many years ago, when the Dickens offices were above the Schwartz Book Nook on Silver Spring, I would often go to pick Rebecca up from work.  Usually after saying hello to Avin and David, whose offices were right off the lobby, I would take a seat on the sofa and wait for Rebecca to finish up.  Avin's door was always open, so I could hear him call each of the store managers and ask, "What are the numbers?" or, sometimes, just "Give me the numbers" and then they would chat about the day's store traffic and what customers were buying.  I am pretty certain this was a daily ritual for Avin—revealing indeed a CFO's love for numbers.  

Shawn Quinn, Accounting Manager:

"I never had a bad conversation with Avin, and I just loved listening to him talk—which is pretty rare—even just his voice, but he always had such intelligent and compassionate things to say. He always referred to himself as a bookseller, first and foremost, when obviously he could have labeled himself anything from owner to controller; but he always put books first, saying the financial part of the business was as much a part of bookselling as the books out on the shelf."

Meg Bacik, Customer Service Supervisor:

"I had just started working here, when it was still Schwartz Business Books, and my job was to check invoices. Avin instructed me to check every detail on every invoice and mark it with a red dot. If I missed putting down one of those dots, he'd ask after it every time. At the time, I was really young, so his presence and precision was intimidating, but I know he influenced the way I do my work now, hopefully with the same attention to detail."

For more memories from former Harry W. Schwartz employees who worked with Avin visit:

Daniel Goldin's post on Boswell and Books

John Eklund's post on Paper Over Board

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