Kroch's and Brentano's

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Kroch's and Brentano's was the largest bookstore in Chicago, and at one time the largest privately owned bookstore chain in the United States. It closed in 1995.

Adolph Kroch, an Austrian immigrant to Chicago, founded a German-language bookstore in 1907. He switched to English-language books during World War I. Later he bought out Brentano's bookstore and merged them into Kroch's & Brentano's.

Adolph Kroch's son, Carl Kroch, opened a Super Book Mart in 1952 and called it the "World's Largest Bookstore". Carl Kroch later took over the Kroch's & Brentano's business, at a large location on South Wabash Avenue. He is credited with being the first bookseller to open outlets in suburban malls and a major developer of the market for paperback books, as well as a pioneer in book display concepts and store design.

Kroch's and Brentano's was said to have the finest selection of art books in the region, and its sales clerks were famously knowledgeable. One such individual was Henry Tabor, who ran the art department. There was seemingly nothing he didn't know in the world of art. The flagship store at 29 S. Wabash had several distinct departments including one run by Alice (Morimoto) Goda who was secretary to the vice-president which was a mail order center that tracked down obscure out-of-print titles for customers around the world. The store frequently exhibited noted painters' and photographers' work on the walls, and regularly hosted book signings by major authors.

At its peak Kroch's had a total of 22 stores in the Chicago metropolitan area. Kroch refused to offer the sorts of discounts that other book chains did, even though the store suffered when large discount chains, such as Crown Books, opened up nearby. When Crown opened its downtown Chicago store a few blocks north of the 29 S. Wabash location, Kroch's management felt that it was not a serious threat, since it did not offer "full service". However, unable to compete with the discount bookstores, Kroch's and Brentano's closed its doors in 1995. Always known for major book signings through its entire history, its final major book signing was with heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman, who was promoting his autobiography By George. That event was hosted by Don Hailman, a long time manager with the company and close friend of Mr. Foreman. Employee Hans Summers waited on the store's final customer at its flagship store on Wabash in downtown Chicago.[citation needed]

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