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91-year-old Bookstore Owner Remodels Cleveland Bookstore

by Bryan Thomas Schmidt 

As a Case Western Reserve University psychologist, she wrote a top textbook and helped pioneer preschooling for children with mental retardation. Since 1990, however, Jane Kessler has run Appletree Books on Cedar Hill in Cleveland, Ohio.  The store, which hadn’t remodeled since opening in 1975, still had original light fixtures.  “We couldn’t get lightbulbs for them anymore,” Kessler says. The project wasn’t just a big change for the structure but also for its 91-year-old owner.

For Kessler and locals, Appletree Books is more than just a store, it’s part of their lifestyle, an important resource, a fixture of the neighborhood and gathering spot. Kessler says: “The store is a community resource. It’s like your local bar. A lot of people come in to chat or look around. I don’t take any money out. That makes it hard when it comes to selling it. But somehow I feel it can be maintained for a long time.”

In describing the kinds of books she sells, Kessler says: “It’s hard to generalize about Cleveland. Even in the Heights, we have different areas. Suzanne DeGaetano at Mac’s Backs on Coventry sells different books than we do. She has a big reputation in poetry. Here, we have a lot of trade paperback fiction. We’re almost part of University Circle here. People are either seriously liberal or seriously conservative. They buy pretty serious fiction and science and math. There is a lot of interest in local history. It fascinates people: the melting pot, the villages, immigration, integration, migration within Cleveland, the changing landscape. Thrity Umrigar and Mary Doria Russell are very responsible writers of historical fiction; they’ve checked their facts. People often buy Les Roberts as a Cleveland souvenir. Arcadia Press is constantly coming out with new books about Slovenian Village, Erie Cemetery…”

Appletree Books is clearly a passion project for Kessler.  For a full interview, see:


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s science fiction, fantasy and humor books, short stories and articles. A frequent contributor to blogs like SFSignal, Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and To Be Read, he also hosts Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat under the hashtag #sffwrtcht on Twitter and blogs about writing and creativity on his own blog at Connect With Bryan On Google+

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