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Sue LÃ¼beck, the founder of West word‘s Best of Denver award-winning bookstore, which passed away on Thursday, July 8th.
“The depth of our desperation to share this cannot be imagined,” the shop wrote on its Facebook page. “Yesterday evening our founder Sue LÃ¼beck reached the end of her long history with her family.”
And it was a rich story.
In 1971, when the youngest of her three children, Rob, was in kindergarten, Sue set out to figure out what to do with her life next. Knowing that the Denver area needed a children’s bookstore, she decided to start this store in her basement. Soon her offerings began to take over the entire family home.
“She was definitely a trendsetter and independent woman in the early 1970s,” says Rob. “It was pretty revolutionary for a woman to be an entrepreneur with no business background.”
Having her house doubles as a bookstore, however, was a mixed bag for the kids. Rob remembers getting off the school bus and going into his house where customers were browsing the stacks – not the ideal situation. But when friends were over there were always plenty of toys to play with and books to read.
Sue ran the shop from her home for years until neighbors in town complained about the vans that would stop outside her house. After the zone inspectors came in and shut down, she moved the bookmakers to Sixth Avenue and Ogden Street. From there, she started a book mobile that drove around town selling books, toys, and games to customers. However, within a few years the shop grew out of its space.
Sue eventually moved the Bookies to a mall on 4315 East Mississippi Avenue, where she has been inspiring children for decades with a wide variety of books as well as a wild selection of educational items, toys, and board games. She would combine books and cuddly toys and find out-of-the-box ways to market her shop, recalls Rob. If a customer was looking for a hard-to-find book, she would spend hours calling the world over to find it.
âIt was about employees and customers on an equal footing,â he says. “For fifty years she put her heart and soul into the bookies and created a unique shop experience.”
Her children remember her as an incredible role model. While her father was the enforcer, she was the gentler parent – but that didn’t mean she wasn’t pushing her children.
“Her philosophy was that you can do anything you want, and that’s what she taught me and my two brothers to do,” says Rob. “She was very caring and pushed us in the right way and got the training and drive going, but not in a very hard way.”
Many of the current employees have been in the business for decades, testament to Sue’s commitment to treating her employees like family. Friends, family, and customers remember her as a blessing to Denver, a person who inspired children to read and had deep empathy for everyone in their community.
“She leaves a world that was richer because she was in it,” wrote the store. “A world in which countless children have learned to love reading. A world full of laughter and joy than they would without them.”
How West word wrote about her shop at the beginning of the year: âThe best bookstores don’t just supply current bookworms – they breed new ones! And no store does this better than the Bookies, a mall that focuses on kids, families, and teachers.Although we’ve managed to shop here without buying anything for ourselves, we have more than we’d like to admit, for books as well Educational toys issued to the kids in our lives Poetry teachers – are experts at recommendations, and the excellent selection that reaches to the ceiling is a joy to browse. “
The loss comes at a significant time as the store prepares for the 50th anniversary celebrations and a number of special events, including the sale of some of Sue’s personal collection of antiquarian books.
“She will be missed by so many people in this place, from her family to the bookies to the larger Denver community,” says Rob. “Everyone has so much admiration for her. She died last night and it couldn’t have been more peaceful.”
The Bookies will celebrate their 50th anniversary on Saturday, August 15th, and in September the family will hold a public commemoration for Sue LÃ¼beck. Please visit the Bookies website and Facebook page for more information.
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