Miriam Sontz, CEO of the Oregon indie bookstore chain Powell’s Books, has announced her retirement, effective January 2019. Emily Powell, president and owner, and John Kingsbury, chief operating officer, will assume Sontz’s responsibilities on her departure.

Sontz has spent 34 years working with the company, in a variety of roles. She was manager of the Burnside and Beaverton locations, and also ran Powells.com. She assumed the position of CEO in April 2013, having been elevated from the job of chief operating officer. She has also served in other industry roles, including on the boards of the American Booksellers Association, the Independent Booksellers Consortium, and Write Around Portland.

During her tenure, Sontz has emphasized delivering an improved, in-store experience to customers. “[Reading is] a very tactile experience,” Sontz told the Oregonian in 2013. “In a high-tech world, there are many people who still look for environments where you get the tactile experience of surrounding yourself with books and booklovers.”

For her part, Sontz was also not shy about expressing how much she enjoyed her work. In an interview on Powell’s own blog last year she said: “Bookstores are an incredible cauldron of serendipity. What comes next into your field of vision is a combination of randomness and curation by staff, a totally human and irreplaceable experience. I can walk down the same aisle every day and see something different.”

Emily Powell said, in a press release announcing Sontz’s retirement: “I want to thank Miriam for her vision and leadership. Her particular impact on Powell’s trajectory may be invisible to many, especially outside of our walls, and yet we would not be Powell’s without her. She leaves us in a strong position for continued success.”

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