A New Man on the Left Coast
- by Bruce E. McKinney
Nick Aretakis has moved back to the west coast and is establishing himself as a bookseller in the Bay Area. He grew up in northern California and now expects to grow old there. He is 48. Nick, for fourteen years, was a cataloguer, salesman, and trade show representative for the William Reese Company. In 2008 he married Maria and now has a son who will soon be eighteen months old. “It was time. With Bill I had the exceptional opportunity to learn the book trade. At 48 I’m the age of the next generation of book, manuscript, map and ephemera collectors. I hope that I can have a thirty-year career as a dealer on my own, helping to build private and institutional collections. I’ve been apprenticing for almost twenty years and bring to my enterprise an up-to-date perspective on appropriateness, value, and rarity.”
Others who have similarly worked for Bill Reese have gone on to distinguished careers. Joe Bray, who worked for the Reese Company for 6 years, 1994-2000, has become a published author and is now back in southern California and working for UC San Diego's Special Collections & Archives department.
“When I first worked for Bill some twenty years ago the Internet was becoming an important source of sales. Dead stock suddenly found buyers. And at the high I saw collector strength that translated into formidable rare book collections that have since, in some cases, come back into the market via the auction rooms. At times collections have also been donated to institutions. The field has a sense of movement.”
“For myself I have transitioned from the selling side into research and collecting. Some people can sell. My strength is in identifying exceptional material. Nick brings both the research and sales skills to his enterprise. I expect he’ll do very well.”
Joe Newman worked for Bill for four years, 2000-2004, and describes his years there as a wonderful experience, “one of the most valuable I’ve had. Working with Nick was a great pleasure. He is extremely smart, kind, and generous with his knowledge. He’s passionate about Americana, and will make a tremendous bookseller. With a strong academic background, and more than a dozen years on the front line of the book trade, his clients will benefit from long and fruitful collaborations with him. I wish him all the best.”
And they are not alone. Bill Reese speaks of Nick in warm and flattering terms. “He’s solid and thorough, and, in the trade there is a real vacuum in strong dealers on the West Coast. He brings great skills to the area.”
His continuing association with Bill will soften his transition to independent dealer. “I hope he’s associated with me for years to come.”
And he of course has a background sufficiently complex for a character in a Dickens novel. “Early on I wanted to be a diplomat and then a scholar. But while I was obtaining a masters degree at George Washington University I took a part-time job in a bookstore. A few years later I worked at the Strand in New York, and really loved working in a used bookstore. When I was accepted to the American History Ph.D. program at the University of Virginia, I went back to school, but the lure of bookselling was strongly felt. A year later I’d left graduate school and was back in Washington, trying to figure out what to do with my life. I found myself spending a lot of time in used and antiquarian bookstores, and eventually noticed that I was looking out much more than I was looking in.”
For the next few years, while working at C-SPAN television he moonlighted at Bartleby’s Books, ABAA in Georgetown and became drawn to antiquarian bookselling, and especially Americana. In 1999 he interviewed Bill Reese during C-SPAN’s coverage of the first Siebert Sale. A year later he went to New Haven and was hired. Fourteen years later Nick is on to the next stage and will become an important dealer. It’s only a matter of time.
Bill Reese is of course in the ABAA and in the future Nick hopes to be. But there is a four-year waiting period for a new dealer that seems inappropriate for Nick who manned Bill’s booths for fourteen years. He’s hardly a new face.
Today in California he is building his inventory, developing e-lists, and reaching out to clients. Later this year he’ll have a website. He’ll be very good at this but there is a reason so few of the highly skilled join the fray. It’s a tough and very high stakes game. Asked about it Bill said, “He’ll make it. He’s good.”
Here are links to his e-lists:
New Acquisitions in Western Americana
Friends and prospects can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His phone number is 203-584-3469.