Brookline Booksmith‘s Dana Brigham will end her 37-year run as the store’s co-owner and manager on May 31. Dana left an indelible mark on this landmark Brookline business that will last for as long as there is a Booksmith.

Anyone who wanted to see Dana Brigham knew where to find her. You just needed to look down the far-right paperback fiction aisle and then up. There you would see Dana through an open window about 8 feet above floor level, sitting high above her domain, burrowed in her work. From her perch, Dana seemed like the matriarch of the whole book-loving world.

They say independent bookstores are making a comeback. That’s not the case with Brookline Booksmith because it never left. The Internet has a lot of advantages; you’re online reading this right now. But you cannot replicate Booksmith online. Booksmith is a community that shares the love of the written word and books, yes, but there is even more to it than that. It’s a community that makes eye contact, smiles at each other, listens to each other, and on occasion, dare I say it, even takes the time to embrace each other.

You never seem to see an unhappy person at a bookstore. They are one of our most cherished oases.

Brookline Booksmith is a great bookstore; managed for the last 37 years by a great woman. The store’s impact on the Brookline community under Dana’s leadership went far beyond selling books. Dana oversaw Brookline Booksmith annual donations to an estimated 120 organizations, individuals, and causes. Dana’s quiet actions have made a difference in the lives of countless people, many of whom have never met her or even know her name.

When I first informed Dana she had been chosen to receive the 2016 Ethel Weiss Service Award at the 6th Brookline Youth Awards; she turned me down. Dana is not a talker, or an attention getter, or a bow taker. She finally agreed to do a video interview and accept the award solely to benefit Booksmith and inspire others to be supportive of our young people.

Dana and a select few individuals provide constant inspiration for me. Dana’s daily actions, her persistence, and attention to detail, the people whose lives are better because of her, make me believe one person can make a difference, and it’s up to me to do my part. Dana is the type of person who by example helps good people become better people.

In an age of sound bites and narrative, Dana is a rare breed. Dana is every single day; you can count on her, lean on her, she’s solid and unwavering.  She’s honest.

Fear not, Booksmith will not be less Dana-like from June 1 on. Brookline Booksmith will continue to thrive moving forward. Dana made sure that would be the case decades ago.

Current co-owners, Lisa Gozashti and Peter Winn, who have spent many years under Dana’s wing, will keep the Brookline Booksmith flame lit. Dana’s departure will not mean the store will stand still. She didn’t teach Lisa and Peter to copy her, that’s not what mentors do. Mentors inspire. Lisa, Peter, and others will put their heart and souls into Booksmith, and it will continue to flower. 

Dana has mentored so many employees over the years who have gone on to great things; it would be hard to count them all.

For 37 years, Dana Brigham nurtured a community of curiosity, accountability, and humanity that has become the benchmark for what small businesses should aspire to be.

Why don’t they erect statues to people who do that?

By R. Harvey Bravman, Publisher