Joyce Meskis is selling the Tattered Cover Book Store after four decades. Len Vlahos and his wife, Kristen Gilligan will be senior management as of July 1, and after two years will gain controlling interest of the book store. Masks plans to retire and be available as a consultant. The financial terms of the deal are being kept confidential. Aldo Svaldi of the Denver Post writes;
"It was a confluence of circumstances," Meskis said. "They were ready to think about the world of bookselling as a part of their professional lives. At my age, I have been thinking about what if this or that happens."
Tattered Cover operates four retail stores in the metro area: on East Colfax Avenue near East High School, in Lower Downtown, at Denver Union Station and one relocating to the Aspen Grove Shopping Center in Littleton.
Tattered Cover has three store locations licensed at Denver International Airport, with a fourth planned.
Meskis purchased Tattered Cover in 1974, when it was a small, struggling shop in Denver's Cherry Creek North neighborhood.
Tattered Cover, known for a high level of customer service, managed to survive the expansion of the big-box booksellers, the shift to online book sales and the advent of digital books.
"It has always been tough," Meskis said. "It is a challenge every day of the week."
Tattered Cover gained an international reputation as a leading independent bookseller, and its stores have become Denver tourist destinations.
Meskis has brought thousands of authors to Denver over the years and is known as a vocal defender of freedom of speech, including fighting and winning a case 15 years ago that protected the privacy rights of book buyers.
"There has never been a greater opponent of censorship than Joyce Meskis," said Denver attorney Dan Recht, who represented her in a case in which the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency attempted to get her to turn over sales records. "Joyce is a committed, staunch, unwavering First Amendment advocate and has been for her whole life."
Vlahos and Gilligan, a former Boulder resident, will relocate to Denver from Stamford, Conn., as part of the transition.
Vlahos is the executive director of the Book Industry Study Group, a national nonprofit that promotes innovation and shares best practices within the book-publishing industry. He spent 20 years at the American Booksellers Association, where he got to know Meskis, and was the group's chief operating officer when he left in 2011. He also is author of the young-adult novel "The Scar Boys."
Gilligan spent a decade at the trade association, where she was director of meetings and events. Meskis is a past president of the group.
Stretching the sale out two years will give the new owners time to learn the business and get grounded in the community, Meskis said.
"She believes in the mission of making literature available to a community and the free flow of ideas," Vlahos said. "That drives her and the staff. It is almost like a higher calling."
Vlahos also described Meskis as "one of the smartest business people I know." He said he and his wife plan to build on what Meskis has created.
Meskis said her two daughters pursued other careers, ruling out a family transition. She also said she is coping with Parkinson's disease. While not an immediate impediment, the condition motivated her to plan ahead — something that, she said, is in her nature.
"I believe in the store, and I believe in it as a service to the community. And I want to see it continue in good hands," she said.
Once retired, Meskis said she plans to support the new owners as needed and read more books, adding people shouldn't be surprised if they see her hanging out among the towering shelves at one of the Tattered Cover stores.
"Who knows what the future may hold," she said.
Aldo Svaldi: 303-954-1410, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/aldosvaldi