Dick Kleinman

Dick Kleinman stands proudly with his Dr. Seuss work, reminding visitors he is the first gallery owner in the world to sell work created by Dr. Seuss, which he plans to sell during his retirement sale. 

Richard E. “Dick” Kleinman, a longtime Cleveland-area art gallery owner who was known for being the only gallery authorized to display art by author Dr. Seuss, died Aug. 15. He was 86.

Kleinman owned Dick Kleinman Fine Art Gallery, which was most recently in Warrensville Heights before it closed in 2017 when Kleinman and his wife, Bobbie, retired, but his gallery also had been located first in Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood, before moving to Woodmere, Chagrin Falls and finally, Warrensville Heights. His gallery was in operation in some form in the area for nearly 20 years.

“No. 1, he liked everybody,” Bobbie Kleinman said. “He was friendly to everybody, he loved his family. ... He was a wonderful man.”

Though the gallery displayed other, usually nationally-known artists, Dick Kleinman Fine Art Gallery was the first – and for many years, the only – gallery carrying original artwork by Theodor Seuss Geisel, more commonly known by his pen name of Dr. Seuss. Kleinman carried Dr. Seuss artworks of all kinds, including some of Geisel’s earlier, lesser-known “secret” art he did during World War II. He ended up being the Dr. Seuss art gallery almost by accident. According to Bobbie Kleinman, a young couple working for the Chase Art Companies came in after having dinner across the street from the gallery when it was in Little Italy. The two were looking for the perfect place to put the first gallery of Dr. Seuss art and according to Bobbie, they walked into the Kleinmans' gallery and said “this is it.”

Bobbie Kleinman said her husband “had no hobbies, all he had was the gallery” and was always looking for something different in the art he sold.

“He looked for something special, something different, something colorful, something he thought everyone would enjoy,” she said. “That’s why he carried so much Dr. Seuss art … it wasn’t just for kids, that was his secret.”

Before opening his art gallery, Kleinman opened a Jeanswest store in the Cleveland area in the 1970s and was a veteran who served in the Korean War and remained patriotic throughout his life, his wife said. She said in his younger days, Kleinman was also an ace tennis player, “the only hobby he ever had.”

Carrie Treister, one of Kleinman’s granddaughters, worked closely with her grandfather in the gallery, often working on the technical side of things for the gallery, which she said allowed her to create “a special bond” with her grandfather.

“He loved people,” Treister said. “He loved making everyone feel special, making you feel noticed. Everybody knew him, from my friends, my friend’s parents, they’d say, ‘oh, your grandpa’s the Dr. Seuss guy!’”

She said her grandfather was passionate about everything he did at the gallery.

“I got to enjoy my time with him in the gallery, too, and see the passion for what he was selling and his connection with people,” she said, adding that she and her sister lost their father when they were young and Kleinman stepped into the father role for them. “And it was cool for me. (He showed) more in how to be a leader in the community and a pillar in the community, he was such a great example of that for me. ... He was just so proud of his business and always so proud of his family. That really sums him up, proud of everything he’s produced and everyone around him.”

Kleinman is survived by his wife, Bobbie; children, Mindi Treister (Tom), Kelly Kleinman (Shizue) and Evin Kleinman; and grandchildren, Carrie and Bailey Treister and Casey and Cato Kleinman.

Private services were held at Mount Olive Cemetery.

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