Moe's Books Celebrates 50th Anniversary, Honors Staff Members

Photo: Moe's Books held an in-store party Saturday celebrating its 50th year in business. This year's party, an annual tradition that began as a commemoration of founder Moe Moskowitz's birthday, focused on recognizing the store's staff for their achievements.
Evan Walbridge/Photo
Moe's Books held an in-store party Saturday celebrating its 50th year in business. This year's party, an annual tradition that began as a commemoration of founder Moe Moskowitz's birthday, focused on recognizing the store's staff for their achievements.

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Moe's Books, a Berkeley landmark since its opening in 1959, celebrated its 50th anniversary Saturday with an in-store party aimed at honoring the store's staff members.

As an annual tradition, the store holds a party on July 11 to commemorate the birthday of its founder, Moe Moskowitz.

But this year, Doris Moskowitz, Moe's daughter and the store's current owner, said she felt it was time to take the celebration in a new direction, not emphasizing Moe Moskowitz as much as the "legacy of the 27 jobs he created."

"Moe was a great guy-funny, smart, embarrassing-but we do have to go on," she said.

The event focused on recognizing employees, who received "mighty schlepper" awards while many of them were hard at work, even as their names were read off.

The new direction for the party reflects larger changes that have taken place at the store.

At a time when other local book stores, such as Cody's Books and most recently Black Oak Books, have shut their store fronts, Moe's Books has found ways to adapt.

The store has continued to expand its online business, which began in 1993, Doris Moskowitz said.

She estimated that 15 to 20 percent of the store's sales are made on the Internet.

Online sales was one area where both Cody's and Black Oak Books made "different choices," Doris Moskowitz said.

While the recession is causing many customers to tighten their spending budgets, Moe's success is a sign of hope for other businesses, especially booksellers in the area, said Roland Peterson, executive director of the Telegraph Avenue Business Improvement District.

"I think what's really important is that Moe's is a stalwart business," he said. "It is definitely a huge asset to the district."

Doris Moskowitz said the staff has also worked to be more customer service-oriented, marking a shift in the store's business model.

Moe Moskowitz believed that people didn't have to be "coddled" and that they could find books themselves, she added.

"When Moe died, there really wasn't that much that had to be changed," she said. "We just had to wash our face, clean ourselves up a bit."

The store has also made efforts to revamp its commercial and brand image in a three-year partnership with artist Gregoire Vion, whose work appeared on commemorative bags given to the first 50 guests at Saturday's party.

Despite recent changes to the business, many said the store has retained much of the original vision of its founder.

"The event's been a lot of fun," said Berkeley resident Audrey Goodfriend, a longtime friend of Moe Moskowitz. "It's been nice to see people who were here all through the years."

Tags: MOE'S BOOKS


Contact David Holmberg at [email protected]



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