Fred Bass, Strand Bookstore Owner: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

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The Strand Bookstore owners Nancy Bass Wyden and Fred Bass attend a cocktail reception with authors from The Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group at Strand Book Store on May 29, 2009 in New York City.

Fred Bass, the owner of Strand Bookstore in New York City, has died at age 89. He passed away in his home in Manhattan on Wednesday.

Bass’s father, Benjamin, co-founded Strand in 1927. Fred was born just one year later. It was only a matter of years before the business of books would pique his interest and he would start working in the family business.

Here’s what you should know about Fred Bass’s life and legacy.


1. His Cause of Death Was Congestive Heart Failure

Leigh Altshuler, Strand’s director of communications, tells The New York Times that Bass’s cause of death was congestive heart failure.

Fred Bass’s father, Benjamin, was a Lithuanian immigrant. His mother was an immigrant from Poland.

Bass spent much of his childhood living in Manhattan’s East Village. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx before continuing his studies at Brooklyn College, where he earned his degree in English in 1949. Bass scheduled his college classes from 8pm to noon so he could help his father by working part-time at Strand.


2. He Started Working at Strand at Age 13

Bass started working at Strand Bookstore when he was just 13. In 1956, when he was 28, he became the store’s manager.

In a 2015 interview, Bass explains that when his father opened the store in 1927, it was very small and he ran it alone. “He was a young man and came to New York at age 17. He had a job working on 4th Avenue, and at that time, there were many bookstores. And he hung around the bookstores, and he got infected with the idea of running a bookstore himself.”

Speaking with Slate in 2012, Bass was asked his opinion on paper books versus e-books, like the ones offered on Kindle or Amazon. He says, “It’s awfully hard to decide whether to read a book just from a description. You really want to see the book, open it up, and read a couple paragraphs on it.” At the end of the day, Bass admits, he likes when Amazon sells a book. “Somebody’s got to sell a book before Strand gets their hand on it! We’re essentially second hand.”


3. His Daughter Co-Owns Strand and Is Married to Oregon Senator Ron Wyden

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The Strand owners Nancy Bass Wyden and Fred Bass attend the launch of the Aperture Foundation and Pratt Institute’s “Eye On The Strand” at the Strand Book Store on November 19, 2008 in New York City.

At the time of his death, Bass co-owned Strand with his daughter, Nancy. Bass says that before Nancy came into the family business, he advised her to work for another company to get more experience.

He admits that Nancy runs the store better than he ever did.

Nancy is married to Oregon senator, Ron Wyden. According to a 2015 article in Oregon Live, Nancy earned at least $2.5 million in 2014, and her net worth at the time was “at least $8.5 million.”


4. His Mother Died of Cancer When He Was 5

In a January 2017 interview with NPR, Bass reveals that he was just five when his mother, Shirley Vogel, died of cancer.

“She died when I was five-years-old… We used to live on 8th street, right near Topkins park as a kid, and I remember her dying there. I didn’t understand what dying meant.”

Asked if he remembers his mom well, he admits, “no.” Asked if he felt like his father took on a more prominent role as the primary caregiver, Bass says yes.


5. His Father, Who Founded the Store, Told Him Not to Work in the Book Business

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The Strand Bookstore owner Fred Bass and Random House CEO Markus Dohle attend a cocktail reception with authors from The Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group at Strand Book Store on May 29, 2009 in New York City.

In his interview with NPR, Bass says that his own father, the founder of Strand, wasn’t too keen on his son working in the book business. Nor was anyone else.

“Everyone told me not to. Including my father. He said it was just too hard, it was too difficult at the time. But I got hooked. I love what I’m doing. I’m a lucky man. Working at a job I like.”

2 Comments

2 Comments

Mark "9/11" Cohen

Fred B Ass was a cheap jew who ripped you off every time he got a chance.His workers were the rudest in the city and his scraggly Black security guards used to follow you around like you were Clyde Barrow.

Glenn Bowen

Fred lent me a large sum of money for tuition, interest free, when I was an employee of his many years ago. As I recall, the loan took less than a minute to secure, over his desk between stacks of books. His kindness has not been, nor will it ever be, forgotten by me.

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