Arnold Greenberg, Whose Manhattan Bookstore Fostered Wanderlust, Dies at 83

February 1, 2016

By RICK ROJAS
February 1, 2016

On the corner of 35th Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan, in a small shop filled with shelves of books containing photographs and stories meant to entice readers to exotic locales, Arnold Greenberg found a place where his passions intersected.

Mr. Greenberg and his wife, Harriet, were travel writers in addition to their day jobs; he was a lawyer, she was a teacher. And in the early 1980s, they became owners of Complete Traveller, which was as much a business proposition as it was a way to indulge their affinity for travel and, for him, antiquarian books, which started after his son gave him one about the lawyer Clarence Darrow, his hero, years ago.

They bought the store in 1984 after two years of part ownership.

Over time, the store survived threats that had proved fatal for many independent booksellers, like the arrival of Internet retailers, and it adjusted to a changing marketplace, particularly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which shrank American appetites for travel. The store shifted its focus from contemporary travel publications toward mostly rare books and maps, including a wall devoted to Baedeker books, the small red travel guides considered to be the first of their kind.

By last year, though, as the lease was expiring and the rent was increasing, the couple were ready to retire. “It was time,” Mrs. Greenberg said.

After the store closed in January 2015, they left for Coronado, Calif., near San Diego, where one of their sons lives. Not long after their arrival, Mr. Greenberg had a severe fall that left him immobile; he died there on Jan. 22 from complications of the fall, Mrs. Greenberg said. He was 83.

Mr. Greenberg was born in the Bronx on Feb. 16, 1932, to Samuel and Sarah Greenberg.

His mother was a homemaker, and his father was a carpenter who worked as the foreman of a shop in Queens that made upscale furniture.

He attended public schools in the Bronx, graduated from the City College of New York and received a law degree from New York University School of Law. He started a law firm, Greenberg & Tuchman, where he worked until he left to focus on the bookstore.

In 1960 he married Harriet Pinchoff, a Manhattan public-school teacher. In addition to her, Mr. Greenberg is survived by his sons, Michael, the host, with Mike Golic, of the ESPN television and radio show “Mike and Mike in the Morning,” and Douglas, a partner in a wardrobe storage and valetcompany, as well as four grandchildren.

The couple began their side careers as travel writers in 1965 with a six-week trip to South America. “We went off on a lark,” Mrs. Greenberg said. They were in contact with Arthur Frommer, the travel guide publisher, who asked them to send a few chapters to consider, she said. They sent him one on Brazil, and he agreed to publish in 1967 what became “South America on $5 a Day,” which has had 16 editions.

Mr. Greenberg often escaped his Manhattan law firm to traverse the world; he and his wife wrote about many of their trips in travel guides. Since the late 1970s, most of their work was published in the “Alive” series by Hunter Publishing, including several guides about South American and Caribbean destinations.

Originally published by The New York Times