It’s been a while since we checked in with a more personal blog, so we thought that with the end of summer in sight we’d see what our Master and Commander Vic Zoschak has been up to these last couple of years!
Q: So V, here we are in 2022 – how have you been this past year, how has life been in general?
We’re into our 4th year of Covid Ms P, and I guess you could say I’ve adapted to that reality. Last summer, I completely closed the shop to the public, and have been ‘on-line’ only ever since, and to be honest, that’s worked out ok.
Q: How has “regular life” played a part in your business over the past many months? The last time we checked in was at the heart of the pandemic. Have you noticed any notable changes since?
I avoided Covid for the first 3 years, but here, early in the 4th, I did catch it a couple weeks back… a variant, I think, for I’m fully vaxxed & boosted. Let’s just say it was not a fun couple of days. But that aside, in response to the on-going pandemic, last summer, I changed my work routine, adopting a semi-retired approach to my work life, only going into the shop 4-5 hours a day, freeing up some personal time to spend with the dogs, catch a few more Giants games, read a few more books… I must say, I find this newer, more relaxed lifestyle quite enjoyable!
Q: You recently celebrated 25 years on Webster Street in sunny Alameda, California. How have you seen Alameda and your location change over the past two and a half decades, as one of the longest running and most-established businesses on the island?
Time does fly, does it not!?! Seems like just yesterday I opened the door at 1503 Webster, but that was actually July 15, 1997. When I opened the shop, the west end of Alameda had just experienced a devastating blow to the local businesses… by that I mean the Navy had closed NAS Alameda in April of that year. All of a sudden a large consumer base was gone. As a result, lots of vacant store fronts existed on Webster, so a new business opening on Webster was a big event, in this case, the Mayor, the Vice-Mayor & the head of the Alameda Chamber of Commerce all came for my ‘ribbon-cutting’. The West end was a long time in coming back, but now, 25 years later, Webster is the main mercantile street in Alameda’s west end. It’s quite vibrant actually, with lots of restaurants & other interesting businesses. But that said, despite the current vibrancy, the street did not, and will not, support a specialized antiquarian book store like mine… were it not for my on-line / mail-order sales component, I would have had to close the doors long ago.
Q: Now that the book world is back to hosting in-person book fairs, how have you seen the changes brought about by the past couple of years influence the book world of today? Which changes are for the better? And on that note, do you find any for the worse?
This one is difficult for me to answer, for as part of my semi-retired approach to business, I’ve decided to omit book fairs from my current business paradigm [except for the local, one-day Sacramento show]. I find it exhausting to be a one-man exhibitor, gone for 5-6 days…. pack the books, drive to the event, set up the booth, man it [solo] for 3-4 days, pack out, drive back to Alameda, unpack all the boxes & reshelve the books. Too much work for this 70 year old… an example of the old leisure vs income dichotomy, with me falling down on the leisure side of the equation.
Q: What would you say your bookselling high and low were, in recent months? This could be an event or a meeting of sorts, or perhaps a notable sale?
I think most booksellers will agree that their favorite book is the one that just sold. But to answer your specific question, two recent sales do come to mind… I helped one of my customers find & acquire a very nice copy of Dickens’ Christmas Carol, and one of my institutional customers ordered an 1866 broadside published out of San Francisco, Freedom’s Footsteps. This latter quite rare, with only a couple copies known to exist.
Q: What do you have on the horizon of interest for yourself and/or for Tavistock Books?
Well, the ILAB Congress is next month, being held in Oxford, England. I’ll be attending, and we’re concluding the trip with some time in London, and then Paris. So that definitely that trip is of interest!
Q: For a fun last question – what is your favorite item to come across your desk in the last few months? Let’s see it!
Oh my, that’s a challenge to name just one! Well, let’s see… as you know, like many of the local booksellers, I tend to scout the monthly Alameda Point Flea Market. Not too long ago, I purchased a book that mimics the great William Blake, Ode to Sea-Sickness, by William Muir. Quite scarce. I think it’s pretty cool, and it will be offered in my stand at the next Biblio Live VBF. Here’s an image of the title page.
Vic’s Ode to Sea-sickness!