John Charles Remington, 66, bookseller

February 20, 2004|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

John Charles Remington, a third-generation Charles Street bookseller who catered to the tastes of an established Baltimore clientele, died of a stroke Monday at St. Joseph Medical Center. The Loch Raven Village resident was 66.

Mr. Remington was former president of Remington Book Stores, a small chain co-founded by his grandfather, Stanley Remington, in 1910.

"John was a gentleman bookseller whose love for books was greater than that for profit," said Robert W. Copp, retired chief operating officer of G. P. Putnam's Sons, a New York book publisher. "He was willing to take the books of new authors when more commercial booksellers were unwilling to stock them. At one point, he had an opportunity to sell out to a chain, but he chose to remain independent, in the tradition of the family."

Mr. Copp recalled that Mr. Remington was loyal to his father's employees. "He cared a great deal about the family name and the heritage his father had created. John was known in the industry far beyond the size of his store."

Born in Baltimore and raised in Stoneleigh, he was a 1957 graduate of Towson High School. After service in the Army and a tour of duty in Korea, he joined the family store housed in a 19th-century building opposite the Roman Catholic archbishop's residence at Charles and Mulberry streets.

He expanded the business into the northern suburbs, including branches in Towson and Timonium. Family members said he agonized over closing any of his shops, but in the summer of 1979, a year after the death of his father, John Tabb Remington, he closed the Charles Street store.

"Charles Street is no longer the shopping area it once was," Mr. Remington said in an advertisement of the closing published in Baltimore newspapers. "We leave it with sadness."

Family members said that in his business dealings, he stressed customer service. He did not encourage commercial credit cards and maintained private charge accounts for customers. He knew his customers' tastes and often sent them books, unsolicited, on topics they enjoyed. The books were rarely rejected.

"Remington's once seemed as fixed and immutable as the Washington Monument, purveying bestsellers, literature, rare books and Marylandia to an amiably steady clientele that seemed as secure and unchanging as the shop," noted a 1983 article in The Evening Sun.

Mr. Remington was well-known in the publishing industry.

"When authors did book tours, they naturally came to Remington's," said his sister, Marijon Remington Donnelly of Wilmington, Del. "When the book salesmen traveled throughout the country, John thought it was a terrible ordeal for them. He invited them to his home, and they would have a home-cooked meal."

In 1983, Mr. Remington closed his last city location at Calvert and Baltimore streets, and in the summer of 1986 closed his last two stores - the final one in the Drumcastle shopping center on York Road.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at the Johnson Funeral Home, 8521 Loch Raven Blvd.

In addition to his sister, survivors include his wife of 42 years, the former Ann Porter; a son, John Porter Remington of Severn; another sister, Kathryn Remington Kramer of Phoenix; and a grandson.

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