Fred Bass, co-owner of beloved Strand bookstore, dead at 89

AP

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NEW YORK (AP) Fred Bass, who for decades ran the sprawling and beloved Strand bookstore that had the tag line "18 Miles of Books," died Wednesday at age 89.

Bass died at his home in Manhattan. Leigh Altshuler, the Strand's director of communications, said the cause of death was heart failure.

Thousands of independent bookstores perished over the past 30 years in the face of competition from chains and online commerce, but the Strand remains a meeting ground for literary obsessives seeking old-fashioned sensory overload, poring through its eclectic and unpredictable stacks of used and new books inside the store and on tables outside in Manhattan's Union Square neighborhood.

Bass, a New York City native and Brooklyn College graduate who took over the business from his father, Benjamin, had worked in the Strand as a boy and continued coming in regularly until a few months ago. He owned and managed the Strand along with his daughter, Nancy Bass Wyden.

"For over 30 years, I have had the privilege of working alongside of my dad managing the store," Wyden said in a statement. "He never had an office and loved when customers told him they enjoyed 'getting lost in the stacks.' He spent all of his time behind his buying desk, eager to see what treasures would come across it. He felt working with books was the best job in the world."

Wyden's husband, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, said in a statement that his father-in-law "especially enjoyed sitting on a stool in front of the store to, as he said, 'promote smooth traffic flow.'

"Fred also became celebrated for the famous quiz about books he devised for job seekers," he said, "and laughed uproariously about how in the age of Google they just looked for the answers online."

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