Shelv­ing a ca­reer

Langer, af­ter 40 years with Tat­tered Cover, is turn­ing the page

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Em­i­lie Rusch

When Cathy Langer first in­ter­viewed for a job at Tat­tered Cover, owner Joyce Meskis asked her to com­mit to the “teeny tiny” Den­ver book­store for at least a year.

There would be a lot of train­ing in­volved, and Meskis didn’t want to waste time on some­one who wouldn’t stick around.

“My 22-year-old self took a deep breath and thought, ‘A year?’ ” Langer said. “It just took. The at­mos­phere of the store, the cul­ture of the Tat­tered Cover, be­ing around books — it’s one of those things I never would have ex­pected, but it was just the right fit.”

Forty years later, Tat­tered Cover’s di­rec­tor of buy­ing is pre­par­ing for re­tire­ment, her en­tire ca­reer spent among the shelves of the now-iconic Den­ver book­store, save a five-year hia­tus while her chil­dren were lit­tle.

She has held a va­ri­ety of po­si­tions since 1977, but her long­est ten­ure has been in book buy­ing. As di­rec­tor of buy­ing, she over­sees all four Tat­tered Cover lo­ca­tions, lead­ing a team of book buy­ers who wade through “thousands and thousands and thousands of ti­tles and de­cide what we think will work for our mar­ket,” she said.

“I’m an eter­nal op­ti­mist,” Langer said. “The in­de­pen­dent book­stores who had a re­ally rough time a num­ber of years ago, they are on the resur­gence. It’s a strong and grow­ing in­dus­try once again.

“The naysay­ers are wrong — peo­ple are read­ing and peo­ple are re­ally ap­pre­ci­at­ing their in­de­pen­dent book­stores.”

Langer plans to of­fi­cially re­tire next March, turn­ing over the reins as di­rec­tor of buy­ing to Stephanie Cole­man, cur­rently the stores’ buyer of adult front-list ti­tles.

Langer’s an­nounce­ment, though, comes at a time of tran­si­tion for Tat­tered Cover.

The store’s incoming new co-own­ers, Len Vla­hos and Kristen Gil­li­gan,

are en­ter­ing the fi­nal months of a two-year own­er­ship tran­si­tion with Meskis, af­ter which the book in­dus­try icon plans to re­tire. The hus­band-and-wife duo joined the book­store’s se­nior man­age­ment team on July 1, 2015, and will ac­quire a con­trol­ling in­ter­est in the busi­ness on July 1.

Vla­hos, who has known Langer for decades through the Amer­i­can Book­sell­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, where he worked for 20 years, said they are “con­fi­dent and com­fort­able” that the Tat­tered Cover will be well-po­si­tioned mov­ing for­ward.

“No mat­ter how you look at it, with Cathy’s sen­si­bil­i­ties and un­der­stand­ing of the book mar­ket and the com­mu­nity, she will be missed,” Vla­hos said. “But Cathy has hand­picked her suc­ces­sor. We’ve been groom­ing (Cole­man) for some time, and they’ll have a whole ad­di­tional year to con­tinue that. She’s al­ready a fan­tas­tic buyer.”

Langer’s im­pact goes be­yond the walls of the Tat­tered Cover. She’s among “an elite group of re­ally well-known book buy­ers in our uni­verse,” Vla­hos said.

She served on the board of the Amer­i­can Book­sell­ers As­so­ci­a­tion and is a past pres­i­dent of the Moun­tains and Plains In­de­pen­dent Book­sell­ers As­so­ci­a­tion and the Colorado Cen­ter for the Book.

“It’s pretty hard to imag­ine the book­selling com­mu­nity with­out Cathy’s strong, clear voice, her pas­sion­ate en­gage­ment with the busi­ness, and above all her deep de­vo­tion to books and read­ers,” said Bob Miller, pres­i­dent and pub­lisher of Flat­iron Books, in a state­ment.

Over the years, Langer said, read­ers’ in­ter­ests haven’t changed sig­nif­i­cantly.

“There has been a change in how peo­ple buy their books and a lit­tle bit in how they read them. More peo­ple are read­ing on de­vices, but we still sell a heck of a lot of phys­i­cal books,” she said. “The thirst for dif­fer­ent kinds of knowl­edge and en­ter­tain­ment is re­ally the same.”

Langer still re­mem­bers when “The DaVinci Code” by Dan Brown first came out — they knew it was go­ing to be block­buster, but it ex­ceeded al­most any­thing they had ever seen. The stores had piles of the thriller that were gone in a day.

More re­cently, Langer said it’s been ex­cit­ing to watch the con­tin­ued suc­cess of “All the Light We Can­not See” by An­thony Do­err, a book they knew was some­thing “in­cred­i­ble” from Day One. (Its pub­lisher fi­nally an­nounced an April pa­per­back re­lease — nearly three years af­ter the Pulitzer Prize win­ner’s ini­tial hard­cover pub­li­ca­tion.)

“I love see­ing what’s go­ing to be com­ing out,” Langer said. “I’m usu­ally buy­ing three to six months out. Right now, I’m buy­ing for the sum­mer. Soon, I’ll be buy­ing for the next hol­i­day sea­son.

“It’s re­ally ex­cit­ing to be able to fill the stores with in­cred­i­ble books. We’re large, gen­eral stores — I can look at a wide breadth of books, non­fic­tion and fic­tion, and try to un­der­stand the cur­rent and fu­ture in­ter­ests of our cus­tomers.”

At any given time, she’s prob­a­bly read­ing three or four books — un­til one wins out and she can’t put it down.

“I’m al­ways read­ing into the fu­ture,” Langer said. “One thing I’m look­ing for­ward to when I re­tire is read­ing old books, the ones I missed, that I want to go back to.”

Near the top of that list are Elena Ferrante’s Neapoli­tan nov­els. She’s also look­ing for­ward to trav­el­ing with her hus­band and spend­ing more time with her three grand­sons.

Meskis com­mended not just Langer’s skills as a book­seller and buyer but also her strong work ethic, or­ga­ni­za­tional lead­er­ship and will­ing­ness to wear many hats in ser­vice to the com­mu­nity and in­dus­try.

“Since join­ing Tat­tered Cover straight out of Colorado Col­lege, Cathy has un­fail­ingly demon­strated her knowl­edge of the read­ers’ po­ten­tial in­ter­est and her abil­ity to be in touch with it,” Meskis said in a state­ment. “Her ded­i­ca­tion to the work of the Tat­tered Cover, through years of chal­lenges and change, has been in­valu­able in mark­ing a place for our stores in the years to come.”

Joe Amon, The Den­ver Post

Cathy Langer, di­rec­tor of buy­ing for the Tat­tered Cover in Den­ver, will be re­tir­ing next March. “I’m an eter­nal op­ti­mist,” she said. “The in­de­pen­dent book­stores ... are on the resur­gence.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.