UPDATED: Open Book...

...should have stayed closed.

UPDATE: Allow me to amend that. It should have stayed closed until the folks behind it were able to open it without financing from the Village of Shorewood. Because if you want to read a book you can't afford to buy on your own, there's always the library.

AND ANOTHER: A reader (yes, I do have a few) who's been following this story since Schwartz's demise and the first mention of re-opening it either as a Shorewood village service or a co-op e-mailed to make an interesting observation: Corporate executives are often criticized because they stand to gain a lot while at the same time having very little stake in whether the business succeeds or fails. Were it not for Keith Schmitz's involvement with Open Book, I'm not sure the observation would necessarily be apt. But since he's playing a major role and has a history of criticizing big business and capitalism alike, I think it's fair game. Considering he's Open Book's board chair and the sweetheart loan it received from the Village (zero interest for four(?) years), Schmitz accepted a government bail-out before the store's doors even opened.

So why does any of this matter to me? Well, for starters, I'm a Shorewood resident, and I was a huge fan of Schwartz when it was around. I'm one of those people who would sit there sipping coffee and taking advantage of the Wi-Fi on a regular basis (but unlike many of those folks, rarely, if ever, did I walk out of there without buying a book). I was disappointed when I heard they were closing, but also accepted the fact that with 80+ years in the business they were making the right call. If the market demanded the void be filled, it would happen. And that's what troubled me so much when I started hearing rumblings the the Village should take over the space and keep the store open as a government service. But when the idea of a co-op popped up, I even considered joining it myself, particularly when someone I know who is deeply involved with Open Book assured me that government funding wasn't going to come into play.

We all know how that turned out. And if it weren't for that loan, I probably wouldn't give two farts about the whole thing. In fact, like I said above, I'd probably even be a member.

Now I just have a bad taste in my mouth over the whole thing. During a recession the Village of Shorewood loaned money to esentially keep a business going that just failed! Hundreds of folks have (quite naively, I think) paid membership dues that could have instead been spent at any of the many other Shorewood businesses, thus helping the local economy. (Think about that one, Shorewood business owners. So far Open Book has raised nearly $70,000 from people to "save" a business that probably didn't need saving. That's money that won't be spent with you.) And if they still wanted a place to read or a community gathering place, let's not forget Shorewood's beautiful and expensive library (with a huge meeting area in its basement) or even Boswell, a mere two miles away!

In all honesty, though, I do hope Open Book doesn't fail. How else will Shorewood get back its 35 grand? But I simply don't see myself ever setting foot in there. The entire operation is based on a premise I can't support and Keith Schmitz is, well, Keith Schmitz (if you know what I mean, you know what I mean).

Besides, as my beautiful partner in crime said to me just this morning, "we're a Boswell family."

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