|Rudloff, circa 1970s; photo via estate of David Sink. Sink, who|
passed away in 2012, once drolly suggested that Rudloff install
a huge neon sign atop the Antiquarium, alternately flashing the
words QUAINT BOOKSTORE
Several close friends of Tom Rudloff, cofounder, with his sister, Judy, of Omaha's Antiquarium Bookstore, have informed AKSARBENT that he passed away this morning of heart failure following pneumonia contracted after chemotherapy for a third bout with cancer.
His used bookstore opened in 1969 in what is now downtown's Eugene Leahy Mall, moving later to 1215 Harney on the northern edge of Omaha's Old Market to make room for the mall, and, in 2006, was moved to an empty school in Brownville, Nebraska.
The Antiquarium's huge stock of used books beckoned generations of Omahans and was augmented by a second-floor art gallery named for sculptor Bill Farmer.
The store's record shop grew to fill the building's basement. Dave Sink, its manager, became a prime behind-the-scenes mover and local legend in his own right in the development of Omaha as a center of Indie Rock and in the rise of such acts as Simon Joyner, Bright Eyes and the brilliant solo career of Conor Oberst.
After building the store's record shop into a formidable attraction in its own right, Sink passed away in January, 2012.
In the 1970s, the Antiquarium, Rudloff, and Omaha itself were the benefactors of an Eastern Airlines "Wings of Man' radio commercial narrated by celebrated film director Orson Welles.
AKSARBENT was passed a cassette tape of the ad years ago and added the following video (in which Welles' name is misspelled in a subtitle):
At 2:06:55 in the video below, Rudloff explains how Young & Rubican, Eastern Airline's ad agency, picked the Antiquarium to be featured in its nationwide radio ads and how it took fifteen years for him to be paid for the release he signed for appearing in the advertisement.
In 2014, the son of the late Luther Jones, Atiim, perceptively interviewed Rudloff over the course of two hours about the history of his bookstore and art gallery.
Some high points from the interview, which doesn't really get started until the 14:44 mark, include Rudloff explaining why he moved the Antiquarium to Brownville, how he fell into the book business, the fact that he started the Farmer gallery to save Bill Farmer's art from Farmer himself, and why he decided not to become a priest.
Here's how he wanted to be remembered:
You know, I'm not sure that my view of how I want to be remembered is more important than how people choose to remember me. And for that reason, I'm not sure that I have an answer to that. Obviously there's none of us that does not want to be liked. And always, it comes down to what point do we choose not to do x, y and z even though they're not going to like us when we don't do x, y and z. I think, because of my enormous admiration for Bill [sculptor Farmer] and [wife] Marge, I think what I would probably have to say — and I'm not giving this full throat — I would like to say that I would like to be remembered as someone who at least tried to accept people the way they were.A Personal Aside:
AKSARBENT has patronized the Antiquarium for 30 years and has spent many happy hours there listening to the discourse over art, politics, books, and more politics presided over by the erudite Rudloff who spoke English, French, German and Spanish. Sports and music were the province of the downstairs record shop kingdom, ruled by the ascerbically witty Sink, a devotee not only of popular music, but of baseball lore and history, and a business mentor to many local bands, whose efforts he somehow was able to persuade John Peel to play on the BBC's Radio 1 "Sessions" broadcasts that Peel hosted.
As for Rudloff, music was not his first, second, third, or fourth love. Once during a game of "Who am I?" AKSARBENT chose Renee Fleming, causing a stumped Tom to say, "Well, who ever heard of HER?" and, in response, a book-browsing woman called out from the second floor stacks: "I HAVE!"
Of the thousands of posts AKSARBENT has made, this is by far our most reluctant effort, as the death which necessitated it has made our world smaller and less joyful. Most of the friends and acquaintances we made in Omaha since moving here from Lincoln in the late 1980s were of people met at the Antiquarium or their friends. It would be impossible for us to estimate the synergies forged, relationships born, and art, political and entrepreneurial alliances made at Tom's "business."
He was socialist in outlook, not just politically, but personally: his lifelong generosity kept the wolf from the doors of many people who had nowhere else to turn.
He never bought any goods or services from a big box store if he could get them from someone he knew personally, even if it was more expensive that way. The implicit lesson — keep your money local; support your friends and community — is one he underscored every day of his life, always by example rather by pontificating, though he never shied from the latter on other subjects.
If you have an anecdote about Tom or a memory of the Antiquarium, please share it below in the comments (allow up to 24 hours for your comment to appear, pending review by our obscenity/libel/spam gatekeepers).
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