Fox & Sons Books closed its doors this week, the latest in the long line of big-box brick-and-mortar bookstores to bow to the ever-expanding Amazon.com. Fox rode the wave longer than most, in part because of its CEO’s savvy choices to get into online sales early on.
Joe Fox was an early adopter of the internet side of the book-selling business, telling ACME News in 2000, “I’ve been intrigued by the internet for a long time. I even met my wife in a chat room!” Fox has been married to Newbery Award-winning children’s author Kathleen Kelly for more than 15 years. Fox Books actually put Kelly’s independent bookstore out of business before the two found their spark, but the couple seem to have put all that behind them. The New York-based Fox & Sons Books went on to become one of the nation’s more notable big-box chains, in part because of its owner’s business philosophy: “Go to the mattresses.” Joe Fox fought, but in 2015 Fox & Sons Books posted losses in all four quarters, and the company’s death was inevitable.
One of FoxBooks.com’s most outstanding features was its online customer service, known for its tagline, “Quicker than an F-O-X.” That feature will stand former CEO in good stead for the future, as Amazon agreed to purchase the customer service arm of the business for $2.2 billion earlier this year. Joe Fox also has significant investments in an elevator company. He cryptically explained that business choice in a 2010 interview, “Let’s just say an hour in an elevator changed my life.”