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Bob Mainardi, proprietor of San Francisco’s The Journal and lover of all issues print, dies at 75

Not long after Bob Mainardi opened The Magazine as a storefront selling glossy magazines for collecting on Larkin Street, two construction workers stopped by to see his always inventive window display.

“How do places like this stay in business?” Mainardi heard one say to the other. “Beats me,” said his companion.

Mainardi told this story for the next 50 years while standing behind the counter raving about the illustrators, art directors, photographers and writers who poured their talent into the magazines that were mailed and sold at the kiosks.

When there were no customers, Mainardi was lucky enough to just leaf through his warehouse and admire the illustrations in the vintage glossies of the first half of the century.

Opened in April 1973, the store was still operating on December 11, 2021 when Mainardi left the store and went home to take an afternoon nap.

Four hours later, longtime partner Trent Dunphy went to check on him. Mainardi died in his sleep with his typical suspenders, glasses with owl rims on the side table. His cat Kicius was lying at the foot of the bed. Mainardi was 75 years old and the cause of death was heart failure, Dunphy said.

As always, the magazine opened the following Tuesday, as Mainardi would have liked. Throughout its history, The Magazine has only been closed for three business days due to power outages caused by the Loma Prieta earthquake.

Mainardi never missed a work day, even after testing positive for HIV in 1986. He took the experimental drug AZT as soon as it hit the market in 1989. He was a longtime survivor who never developed symptoms of AIDS.

Robert Thomas Mainardi was born and raised in Patterson, NJ on February 2, 1946. His father, Marcus Mainardi, taught math in college and his mother was a housewife.

Mainardi came west to attend Whittier College, which he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1968. A college buddy had been inducted into UC Hastings College of the Law, and “Bob came along because he thought it might be fun,” said Dunphy.

After renting an apartment on California and Polk Street, Mainardi got a job at the Bonanza Inn Bookshop across Market Street from the Palace Hotel. Mainardi was a book buyer who specialized in remaining stock – texts that no longer sold well – but his love was always magazines. He collected copies of the Saturday Evening Post for Norman Rockwell and JC Leyendecker’s illustrations dating back to the 1910s.

Mainardi’s own collection formed the magazine’s original inventory when he and Dunphy opened the store at 839 Larkin Street, conveniently located next to Gangay, one of Polk Gulch’s oldest gay bars.

At its peak around 1980, the magazine had over a hundred regulars, mostly collectors, looking for retrospective issues of Time and Life. People has been a constant seller starting with the premiere edition on February 4, 1974, with Mia Farrow on the cover of The Great Gatsby. The older issues of Holiday, Look and Colliers also sold well.

Those were the front books in the shop. At the back were skin magazines and erotica in trash cans, sorted according to fetish preferences.

“The funny thing about The Magazine is that it wasn’t like walking into a dirty bookstore because it was classy and looked so old-fashioned,” said Kevin Bentley, a former book editor at Harper Collins.

“Everything has been treated with appreciation for the preservation of all things on paper. You were never embarrassed, ”said Bentley.

Bentley can remember looking in the magazine for the latest issue of Playgirl or Blueboy while a straight collector next to him looked for a specific vintage issue of Playboy.

“Whether you asked for a magazine about surfers or a magazine about spanking, you always got a respectful reply from Bob,” said Bentley.

When the shop opened, either Mainardi or Dunphy were behind the counter. They met at a mutual friend’s Sunday brunch in 1969 and have been partners in life and business ever since.

“We both loved magazines,” said Dunphy. “We always believed that if it were legal we would sell it.”

They also believed in the power of window dressing. “That’s how Bob put himself,” said Dunphy. “His first memorable appearance was the day Nixon stepped down. He put every magazine we had with Nixon on the cover. There was no comment from us, just the cover. “

A stunned passer-by was photographed in front of the window. The picture made the morning chronicle.

In 1986 the magazine needed more space and a wider shop window front for Mainardi’s creative shop window displays. So it moved one block south to combine two storefronts at 731 Larkin. They had hardly moved in when a friend who worked in the real estate business gave Mainardi some important piece of advice.

“He said, ‘If you don’t buy a building, you’re going to be out of business in 10 years,'” said Dunphy. They bought 920-924 Larkin, an abandoned three-story building for $ 450,000. They mortgaged Dunphy’s home in the mission district, and Mainardi contributed an inheritance from his parents to pay cash.

The renovation of the shop window and the two apartments on the upper floor took four years. The last location was opened in 1993. Among those addressed was the illustrator R. Crumb, who designed an advertising poster for the shop. He took payment in copies of Time, which contained WWII propaganda drawings.

Mainardi never stopped collecting. There are roughly 5,000 postcards with New York pictures and boxes and boxes of magazine covers in the old Victorian style he and Dunphy owned on the mission. Mainardi spent his working day organizing and studying his magazines, then going home and organizing and studying.

“He spent hours looking through them,” said Dunphy. “He has always immersed himself in his collection, smoothed it out and organized himself.”

He was also a collector of body photography and illustrations, mostly of male bodybuilders. These were published in three books that he edited and introduced introductions.

Mainardi’s last window display, Christmas scenes with covers of the New Yorker and the Saturday Evening Post, was still there as New Year’s Eve approached.

“People still come by and poke their heads in and say, ‘I love these windows, let them come,” said Dunphy.

The fate of Mainardi’s personal collection has not yet been determined, but the store will live on, at least as long as Dunphy did. He is 84.

“The store was Bob’s life,” said Dunphy, noting that Mainardi never had a cell phone and that his store doesn’t have a computer. “He loved coming here every day and working on his windows or sealing magazine covers. It was something from another time. “

A memorial service is due. Survivors include his 50-year-old partner, Trent Dunphy of San Francisco; Brother Mark Mainardi of San Francisco; and cousins ​​Jesse Mainardi from San Francisco and Paul Mainardi from Philadelphia.

Donations on his behalf can be made to the Tyler Clementi Foundation (which focuses on combating harassment and bullying of gay children). PO Box 345, Harrison, NJ 07029; and Larkin St. Youth Services, 134 Golden Gate Ave., San Francisco CA 94102

Sam Whiting is a contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: swhiting@sfchronicle.com. Twitter: @swittingsf

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