Jeff Deutsch, a respected bookseller with two decades of bookstore experience, will be the next director of the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, the Co-op’s Board of Directors announced today. He will begin his new position on July 1.
As director of the Seminary Co-op, Deutsch will lead one of the nation’s preeminent academic bookstores. Founded in 1961, the Co-op has grown from 17 to 53,000 members and become a beloved Chicago cultural institution.
Deutsch comes to the Co-op from Stanford University, where he has served as the director of stores for the Stanford Bookstore Group since 2012. He previously led the Cal Student Store at the University of California, Berkeley.
At both Stanford and Berkeley, Deutsch strengthened partnerships with academic departments and student groups across campus, enhanced the experience of bookstore employees, and significantly improved the financial situation of both stores.
Deutsch first visited the Seminary Co-op as a teenager, and never forgot the store’s atmosphere and remarkable selection.
“There are very few stores in the world that do what we do,” Deutsch said. “The pull of being at a store that sells primarily serious books is really strong.”
The Co-op’s Board of Directors retained executive search firm Isaacson, Miller to undertake a national search for the new leader of the Seminary Co-op. Deutsch was selected after multiple conversations with members of the Co-op’s Board of Directors, representatives of the general membership and bookstore staff.
Harry Davis, the chair of the Co-op’s Board of Directors, said Deutsch’s bookselling passion and expertise, as well as his leadership skills, will fit perfectly with the Co-op’s culture.
“Jeff has a genuine love for books, and I think that will further the mission of the bookstore,” said Davis, the Roger L. & Rachel M. Goetz Distinguished Service Professor of Creative Management at Chicago Booth. “He loved this bookstore before he had any idea he would be able to lead it. For him, this is one of the truly great academic bookstores in the country, and he’s coming here with a real sense of appreciation of its history, but also with ideas for how it can become a more important part of this community.”
Clifford Ando, a member of the Co-op and the David B. and Clara E. Stern Professor in Classics and the College, also sees Deutsch as an ideal fit for the Co-op.
“Jeff Deutsch has deep experience in managing university bookstores at other great universities, both public and private,” said Ando, who served on the search committee that selected Deutsch. “He also has a rich acquaintance with the Co-op and a passion for its mission. I think he's a splendid appointment.”
Deutsch succeeds Jack Cella, who retired in October 2013, after serving as general manager of the Co-op for 43 years. Cella oversaw the Co-op’s move from its original home at 5757 S. University Ave., to a new, larger space at McGiffert House, 5751 S. Woodlawn.
Deutsch will assume the directorship of the Co-op at a time of transition and economic hardship for independent bookstores across the country. Yet he believes the Co-op’s unparalleled selection of literature and academic books and its committed community of members will ensure a bright future for the store.
“For a store like the Seminary Co-op, there’s a lot of reason for hope,” he said. “My hope is that the membership will give me ideas and feedback, and be a part of making the store a success.”
An avid reader of modern European fiction, modern American poetry, and ancient philosophy, Deutsch grew up in a house of books. He worked in libraries as a teenager before beginning his bookselling career. “It’s the greatest job in the world to be in a bookstore every day,” Deutsch said.
He married his wife, artist and fellow bookseller May Yen, in a book-themed wedding on Bloomsday—June 16—2012. The couple will move to Chicago with their dog, three cats, and enormous shared book collection this summer.
Seminary Co-op members will have an opportunity to meet Deutsch at an open house at the Woodlawn store from 4 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 27.