February 2007 Issue
Personal: Lives in Cleveland Heights with his wife, Susan. They have two adult children, Joshua and Rebecca, and a grandson, Benjamin,
Photo by Andrew McCallister
who is 2.
How it began: As a child, Rakow always collected things like baseball cards. He began collecting children's books in the early '80s while he was a librarian. Rakow's interest in pop-up books peaked when he discovered old editions in good condition (he cites the irony behind creating delicate children's books). When he obtained duplicates, he sold them, which led to one of his successful online businesses, Wonderland Books.
What he loves about his work: Rakow keeps busy juggling the responsibilities of Wonderland Books and a book-themed T-shirt and tote business, Wonder-Shirts. He derives great pleasure from making reading fun for kids. "Everything I have done in my professional life and elsewhere comes from a sincere, passionate belief that books have to maintain a primary place in our lives."
The flip side: While most of the 10,000-plus books in his collection are for sale, Rakow keeps some for himself. "I never thought of myself as a businessman," he says. "I had to carve some of this out for love, not commerce."
Better than books: While he is proud of starting and running his businesses, he says: "My biggest accomplishment is maintaining a loving relationship and successful marriage for 36 years."