Sanford Jaffe, founder of Booksource, dies at 80

Sanford Jaffe in 2014. Photo: Lisa Mandel 

Robert A. Cohn, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Sanford “Sandy” Jaffe, a beloved and admired business leader and volunteer for numerous philanthropic causes, died Thursday, Sept. 12, of complications from heart disease at his home in Chesterfield. He was 80 years old. Family members described him as being at peace and surrounded by loved ones.

Mr. Jaffe was born on March 12, 1939, the son of Meyer and Reva Madden Jaffe. His grandparents were Eastern European Jewish immigrants who originally sold clothing from a pushcart in downtown St. Louis.

 In 1906, Mr. Jaffe’s grandfather, Morris Jaffe, opened the Good Luck Clothing Store, which was run as a family business, not only for the Jaffe family but for all of the firm’s employees.

Sandy Jaffe was a proud graduate of the University City High School Class of 1957. Many of his classmates, who recalled him as a star athlete and longtime dear friend, attended the funeral service Sunday at United Hebrew Congregation, where Rabbi Brigitte Rosenberg of UH and Rabbi Susan Talve of CRC officiated. Mr. Jaffe attended the University of Champaign-Urbana, where he received a degree in journalism with a concentration in advertising. At the university he met Marcia Rubin, who would become his wife of 40 years. She died in 2011.

Mr. Jaffe served in the Army and was stationed at Fort Lee, Va. After he left the service, he worked in advertising for a few years before his lifetime love of reading and books led to his choosing a career in the book business. He saw the potential for success in a firm called Paperback Supply, which was then financially failed and disorganized. With funds borrowed from his uncle, he purchased the firm, which would later be renamed Booksource.

By the 1970s, Mr. Jaffe had transformed the once-failing business into a valued resource for locally owned bookstores in the region, including Paul’s Books in University City; Library Ltd. in Clayton and Left Bank Books in the Central West End. Later Barnes & Noble became his largest customer.

In the 2000s, Mr. Jaffe adapted to the changing book sales market and shifted the focus of his business on educational materials, selling to school classrooms and libraries. Booksource currently has 400 employees and expects sales for 2019 to surpass $150 million.

Mr. Jaffe was proud of the fact that he was able to bring his children, Donna, Gary and Neil, into the business. Donna recently retired after having overseen a children’s book and birthday card division called Peaceable Kingdom. Gary is the chief executive officer and Neil is president of the firm.

Through the decades, Booksource has won numerous awards and has been cited repeatedly as a great place to work. 

Mr. Jaffe encouraged all of his staff to donate time to philanthropic efforts and showed the way by setting an example. He was a founding member of Ready Readers; a board member of the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Missouri, which presented him with its Lifetime Achievement Award, and was named a Jewish Light Unsung Hero in 2014 for his quiet approach and generous support of a variety of causes.

Mr. Jaffe was also recognized as an Ageless and Remarkable St. Louisan by the St. Andrews Resources Senior System. The city of St. Louis presented him with the Mayor’s Spirit Award in 2010.

At his father’s funeral service, Neil Jaffe said, “He leaves a legacy rich with family and friends who cherished him, a community that appreciated and respected him and a business that gave so much to so many over the past 45 years.

“His smile, kindness and generosity brought light to others.  While the world will be a darker place without him, fortunately he gave his light away to so many of us, and in turn we can share that with our families, friends,  coworkers and the people we come in contact with every day, just like he did.”

 Survivors include his daughter Donna and sons Gary (Julie) and Neil (Wendy) Jaffe; his sister Fran Stone (Stan) and seven grandchildren. Also surviving is his longtime companion, Diane Blackwell. 

Following the service at United Hebrew Congregation, burial was at United Hebrew Cemetery, 7855 Canton Ave. Donations may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Missouri or Ready Readers.