July 22, 2016
News & Opinion: 800-CEO-READ Leadership Transition
“800-CEO-READ’s maxim, We Believe in Books, is a direct descendent of David Schwartz’s belief that there is cultural, political, and social value in the act, and the art, of bookselling. While we are all sad to bid Carol a fond and grateful farewell as she moves into her well-earned retirement, we enthusiastically welcome Rebecca to join us in the day-to-day challenges and rewards that come with this modern iteration of her bookselling lineage.”
Sally Haldorson, 800-CEO-READ General Manager
Sally’s quote says it all. Today we celebrate one leader for all that she has done for us while we welcome another leader we’re excited to have at the helm.
A fond and grateful farewell. Carol Grossmeyer has been our CEO since 2007, and on September 1, 2016 she will retire as CEO of 800-CEO-READ.
Carol is first and foremost a tireless advocate for the underlying philosophies that guide this company. She is, like we are, and like her late husband David Schwartz was, a believer in books, because books have cultural, political, social, and in our company’s case, a personal and professional currency like very few products have. Books and bookselling are in Carol’s bones.
Carol is also a believer in and advocate for her people. She trusts us. She believes that we will not only maintain, but prosper, and that the company will reap the rewards of our hard and smart work. At the same time, her thirst for understanding is persistent. If an idea is proffered, Carol wants to know every angle until it can be thoroughly digested.
We could go on all day, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t also mention Carol’s spatial brilliance and mastery of the physical space. Put her in an empty room, or in our case when we relocated offices last October, put her in an empty building, and her brain sees precisely how it can and should be utilized. It’s mind-blowing to watch it happen.
Carol, from everyone on staff here at 800-CEO-READ HQ, thank you! You will be missed more than you know. Tonight, we will clink glasses and celebrate you for all you’ve meant to us. After that, we wish nothing less than for you to enjoy every second of your well-deserved retirement.
Next, excitement and possibility. If Carol has books in her bones, our incoming CEO has books and bookselling in her blood. The third-generation of the Schwartz family to run this company, Rebecca follows her grandfather Harry W. who founded the company and her father David who ran it until his death in 2004.
As a direct leader/CEO, we’re just getting to know Rebecca. But what we do know is that Rebecca has high expectations for everyone in her sphere and carries a singular aura of determination and purpose. For those of us who worked for David Schwartz, it’s a bit unnerving when Rebecca asks the question David asked every employee, a seemingly simple question, “What are you reading?” It’s hard to explain without experiencing the question first hand. It sounds like an easy question to answer; just reply with a book title. But it’s more than that. It’s a question that perhaps asks, “How much do you care?” It’s a great question. It’s a challenging question. It’s a question that has guided this company for a half score shy of a century. It’s a question we look forward to answering in person every week, month, and year that Rebecca guides us.
More about Carol and Rebecca
Carol Grossmeyer began her 41 years in the book business when she was hired by David Schwartz in 1975 as a fledgling bookseller. After a bookstore romance David and Carol married in 1983 merging their love of books, their families and their appreciation for a good bottle of red. Over the next 21 years Grossmeyer worked closely with Schwartz as she oversaw the planning and design of seven different bookshop locations bringing to life David’s and her unique vision for bookselling in Milwaukee. When David Schwartz lost his battle with lung cancer in 2004, Grossmeyer took a break from work but in 2007 took over as CEO of Schwartz Bookshops and subsequently 800-CEO-READ. Her final project was relocating 800-CEO-READ into their new, larger location in Milwaukee’s Fifth Ward, one with significantly more space for the company to achieve continued growth.
Rebecca Schwartz has been involved with the family business of bookselling since childhood, raised as chief book duster and straightener at the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop on Fifth and Wisconsin from the age of five. She graduated to tracking down inventory and working the register by eight, and then worked off and on as a bookseller in our various Schwartz locations until 26, when she returned from graduate school to be the director of marketing and advertising for, at the time, five Schwartz bookshops (1988-91). Schwartz then chose a career as a teacher where she taught eight years at Shorewood High School and retired this June from teaching English at University School of Milwaukee after 14 years (2002).
About Ryan Schleicher
Ryan Schleicher is now in his third tenure at 800-CEO-READ, having left the nest previously for adventures in New Orleans and at Milwaukee's Frontier Radio Station, WMSE. Developed the old-fashioned way, Ryan began at 800-CEO-READ in shipping/receiving, but the bosses kept offering new opportunities in customer service, sales, and marketing (he's most famous for his stint at our former book giveaway site, inBubbleWrap), so it was a no-brainer to bring him back in a multifaceted capacity, with a focus on directing our PR and working with Author Services.