The Cambridge story of Curious George, the resident scamp of Harvard Sq.
Hillel Stavis, former proprietor of now legendary WordsWorth Books of Harvard Sq. in Cambridge, Mass., died immediately Friday, October 20, 2023, in Eaton, N.H. He was 78.
For practically 30 years his formidable, modern strategy to bookselling made WordsWorth a go-to vacation spot for ebook lovers the world over. At its peak within the Eighties WordsWorth was the very best grossing bookstore per sq. foot within the nation. Within the days earlier than big-box chains, on-line buying and ebooks, WordsWorth grew to develop into the quintessential impartial bookstore based mostly on its monumental stock, lengthy hours and frequent writer signings. Most significantly, Stavis was the primary to supply his complete stock discounted from the publishers’ value.
Stavis was born July 1, 1945, in Boston, earlier than his household lastly settled in Brookline, Mass. After graduating from Brookline Excessive College, he earned his school diploma in political science at McGill College in Montreal. He joined the newly fashioned Peace Corp following school, educating science in Kenya as a part of the primary technology of volunteers. Earlier than returning to the States, he spent a yr in Paris, learning drugs. By the point Stavis returned to Boston, he spoke each French and Swahili.
A number of years of apprenticeship at bookstores in Boston and New York led Stavis to open his personal retailer in Cambridge. In 1975 he discovered the location he would occupy for the following three a long time at 30 Brattle Road in Harvard Sq.. Many hours of counting passersby at that location satisfied him that he had discovered the perfect spot. WordsWorth Books shortly established itself as one of many preeminent impartial bookstores within the Boston space.
In the course of the retailer’s finest years, earlier than on-line buying started to chop into gross sales, WordsWorth averaged promoting 3,000 books per day. Customers may very well be seen shivering in line outdoors the shop throughout the vacation season ready for WordsWorth’s 8:30 a.m. opening. Donna T. Friedman, Stavis’ spouse and the shop’s long-serving principal purchaser, guessed that he was chargeable for promoting greater than 20 million books over his profession, doubtless greater than any bookseller in New England historical past.
Success with WordsWorth led Stavis to a number of associated companies. Owing to a detailed relationship together with his Cambridge neighbor Margret Rey, the creator of Curious George, Stavis and his spouse opened Curious George Goes to WordsWorth, which operated at 1 JFK Road from 1996 to 2011. The shop featured kids’s books and toys and is remembered for the throngs that appeared at particular midnight openings on the discharge day of latest Harry Potter books.
In 1985, Stavis and associate Glen Legere designed a digital stock system for bookstores, WordStock. Marketed nationwide, it was the primary such system obtainable. Many bookstores nonetheless use the software program. Know-how, nevertheless, additionally spelled the tip of WordsWorth. The unfold of enormous nationwide chain shops, coupled with the rise of Amazon, upended your entire trade resulting in WordWorth’s closing in October 2004. Curious George lastly closed in 2011.
Stavis’ close to photographic reminiscence made him an skilled in a variety of topics. He was a lifelong cinephile, canine lover and a much-appreciated cook dinner. For a few years, Stavis volunteered with the Cambridge Public College Volunteer program. Stavis’ particular pursuits additionally included passionate assist for Jewish causes and the State of Israel, and work on his 1820s farmhouse in Eaton, N.H. Stavis was at his Eaton residence when he suffered coronary heart failure.
Stavis was predeceased by brother Eugene Stavis, his father Samuel Stavis and his mom Sylvia Citron Stavis. He’s survived by his spouse Donna; son Myles Thayer Samuel (Brittany Knotts), all of Arlington, Mass.; daughter Lily Jane (John Shea) of Merrimac, Mass.; sister Laurel Stavis of W. Lebanon, N.H.; and nephew Steven Harper of White River Junction, Vt.
Contributions in Hillel’s reminiscence could also be made to Larger Boston Meals Financial institution or MSPCA-Angell.
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