Robert Wu, chairman and founder of Eslite Corp., one of the largest retail bookstore chains in Taiwan, died yesterday, the Taipei Times reported. He was 66. Eslite was established in 1989, with its first bookshop in Taipei's Daan District. The company gradually expanded to 48 stores, one children's bookstore and four music stores in Taiwan. The first Eslite Bookstore outside the country opened in Hong Kong in 2012. Eslite also has branches in China.
Wu built his original bookstore "into an international chain of luxury book shops combined with fashion, design, lifestyle, gourmet food courts and even a hotel, often in fashionable locations. The original outlet became a 24-hour operation," Taiwan News wrote, adding that he "started off in the food and catering sector, but after developing an interest in books, he decided to give his career a new direction.... Wu saw his stores as cultural plazas more than as plain commercial sites."
The Straits Times noted that the "humble and mild-mannered Mr. Wu struggled with losses for the first 15 years of running Eslite, when the company specialized in books on art and architecture. But he persevered." In a talk at the City University of Hong Kong in 2014, he said, "I believed that reading is an integral part of life, and I did not want to see bookstores disappear in the commercial world."