On Saturday, July 31, Dr. Shahnaz Christine "Chris" Saad, owner of Chris' Corner: Books for Kids & Teens, in Philadelphia, passed away from complications related to scleroderma, a chronic autoimmune disease that leads to hardening of the skin. She was 40 years old.
"So many people were touched by Chris' life," the store's co-manager, Leslie Bixby, told BTW. "The outpouring of sorrow, condolences, and tears from all whose lives she influenced has been a moving testimony to how she lived and worked. Family, friends from all aspects of her life -- teachers, librarians, fellow booksellers, and industry professionals, neighbors and customers crowded her viewing and have been calling or stopping at the bookstore."
In 1985, after graduating from Smith College, Saad packed her possessions in her car and left her home in Long Island, as reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer. She stopped in Philadelphia, fell in love with the city, and decided to stay there, eventually earning her doctorate in education in 1996 from the University of Pennsylvania, the Inquirer noted.
However, Saad had a lifelong love of children's literature. She always dreamed of owning a bookstore for children, and in 1998 that dream became a reality when she opened Chris' Corner. "She was passionate about books and loved sharing her knowledge and excitement with children of all ages -- including big people,' as we called adults," Bixby said. "She was quick to learn the bookselling business, and the store blossomed into a vibrant addition to the community."
As the Inquirer noted, the cozy store was "furnished with miniature chairs, knee-high tables, comfy rugs, and bookshelves with short steps so that little hands could reach the books they wanted." The store often drew favorable comparisons to Meg Ryan's quaint bookstore from the movie You've Got Mail. In a 2004 interview with the Inquirer, Saad agreed that there were similarities, except that "we're not going to go out of business."
Bixby noted that Saad's success as a bookseller could not be measured simply by gross sales. "Over the past few days, journalists and community members asked me, 'was the store successful? Did it make money?'" she said. "Success can be measured in many ways. The store was a labor of love
. However, the number of people whose lives were affected by a particular event or author visit, a handpicked book, a new understanding of reading, the safe haven atmosphere or the kind proprietor is immeasurable.
"Chris was able to spend the last six years of her life living a dream come true. I would like to publicly thank any booksellers, sales reps, vendors, and industry professionals for any assistance or words of wisdom you may have provided to help make her dream a reality."
Bixby told BTW that, above all, she would remember Saad as a humanitarian. "All three of her degrees were in education, and she chose to teach the disabled and underserved," she said. "She was active in local community organizations, the Scleroderma Foundation, and AIDS prevention and education, among others
. She will be missed by all."
Saad's family, staff, and friends are attempting to keep the store open "as her legacy," Bixby added.
A memorial service for Saad will be held at Chris' Corner on Sunday, August 29, from 2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. --David Grogan