The Alabama Booksmith opened October 21, 1999. The genesis can arguably go back somewhere between a decade and a century, depending on how technical the historian. Here’s the story. On September 22, 1990, Jake Reiss opened the Highland Booksmith, removing the stigma of being the only male member of his family for two generations not to serve some time as a bookseller.
Jake’s brother, Norman, began the family bookselling tradition by working at Malone’s Bookstore in Tuscaloosa, when he attended the University of Alabama in the sixties. Eldest son Jake IV, sold books for three summers as a student at the University of Georgia. He preceded the Internet by taking books to customers’ homes in Blytheville, Arkansas; El Centro, California and French Lick, Indiana while representing Southwestern Publishing Company of Nashville, Tennessee. Youngest son Frank actually should be credited as the Booksmith progenitor when he went to work for and eventually became manager of Acorn Books in San Francisco.
On the first of several visits, the father was intrigued with the son’s operation. In the late 1980’s, Frank moved back home to Atlanta and opened the very successful A Cappella Books. On many occasions, the son took the father along acquiring inventory and the book bug bit. Jake returned to Birmingham and started buying books. After his spare bedroom was completely overrun, the building in Birmingham’s bohemian district was leased and The Highland Booksmith was born.
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