Neal Sofman, the co-owner of San Francisco's Bookshop West Portal and founder of onetime Bay Area bookselling staple A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books, died on September 6. He was 75.

Sofman began his career in bookselling as a clerk at Upstart Crow bookstore in San Francisco's cannery district before opening the first A Clean Well-Lighted Place in 1975, in Cupertino, with two business partners. In 1982, the store's third location was opened in the city's then-new Opera Plaza condo towers. Sofman closed that shop in 2006 and the location is now a Books Inc. As he was closing the last A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books, Sofman opened a new store, Bookshop West Portal, in the city's West Portal district, which is still in operation.

Sofman was an participant in an early TED conference, had a radio show about books, and at various times served on the board of the Northern California Booksellers Association and the American Booksellers Association.

“Neal was like an old master,” Wendy Sheanin, v-p of independent retail sales at Simon & Schuster, told the San Francisco Chronicle; Sheanin had previously worked, for six years, as events scheduler at A Clean Well-Lighted Place. “When you think of the generation of people, nationwide, who have these great independent bookstores, Neal was right there with them.”

Sofman is survived by his wife, Anna—whom he first met in 1987, when she was sales director at University of Chicago Press—and a son, Samuel.