Richard Gildenmeister,  Master Bookseller


Richard Gildenmeister has been promoting books and authors in Cleveland for more than 50 years. He has also championed many local authors.

Arriving in Cleveland in 1955, he sold books for 18 years at Higbee’s downtown department store, before being named manager of an Burrows store on Shaker Square and buyer for all 36 Burrows bookstores. In 1976, he opened his own, very popular bookstore, Gildenmeister Books, at Shaker Square. 

When the store closed, he was immediately sought out by most of the area’s bookstores. He went to work, first, for Booksellers in Beachwood’s Pavilion Mall, and then Apple Tree Books in Cleveland Heights, before returning to Shaker Square as Joseph-Beth’s distinguished master bookseller. He now holds the same position at Joseph-Beth’s Legacy Village store, where he continues to mentor upcoming generations of booksellers.

In the 1950s, he co-founded what became the Cleveland Plain Dealer Book and Author Luncheon as well as Higbee’s Meet the Author luncheon series, which raised money for the Women’s City Club. A longtime board member of the Friends of Cleveland Public Library, he has taken an active part in used-book sales organized to raise money for the library and lent his own extensive collection of now-rare books and books autographed and inscribed by the authors, many of whom have become lifelong friends of his.

He has probably done more to promote national and local authors over the past 50 years in northeastern Ohio than anyone, staging on-site book signings and readings, displaying the work of area writers and recommending their books to his legions of loyal customers.

The decades he has reveled in the book business have played a large part in creating and maintaining the reality of Cleveland as a “good book town.” As a bookseller, his unabashed enthusiasm for good writing and great books is infectious. And as host to many local and nationally renowned authors, he has kept books and writers in the public eye. And he has, almost singlehandedly, kept readers aware of and supportive of local artists, authors and poets.

It is said that after Sir Harold Evans spoke in May 2005 to the 21st Century Club on his book, They Made America, he gestured toward Gildenmeister, who was, as usual, manning a table for Joseph-Beth, and said, “I wonder if you all know that in New York that man, Richard Gildenmeister, has long been regarded as the greatest bookseller in America.”


Cleveland Arts Prize
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