Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Favorite Bookstores #7: The Book Swap

Another good store I ran across in my book-hunting days was The Book Swap, in North Richland Hills on the north side of Fort Worth. It was located in an old, small strip shopping center, next to a sewing machine store, if I recall correctly. And when you went in, the space was crammed full of shelves of paperbacks with narrow aisles between them. My kind of place, in other words.

But it got better. As you worked your way to the back, more and more rooms somehow opened up off the main one. I finally figured out that they ran behind some of the other businesses in the building. Those rooms were packed just as full as the one in front, but they had the better stuff, as far as I was concerned: the mystery, Western, and science fiction sections.

The stock was a mixture of vintage paperbacks and newer stuff, and the owner's pricing system was complicated enough that I never quite made sense of it. It wasn't strictly half of the cover price, but it worked out close to that except on the older books, which did have a minimum (50 cents, I seem to recall, but it may have been a dollar). Nor was the condition of most of the older books great, but most of them were in decent shape and certainly readable, which is why I wanted them anyway, to read. I hardly ever left there without a grocery sack full of stuff.

Like some other stores, though, The Book Swap was on the wrong side of town (and don't get me wrong, I mean that in a traffic sense) for us to get there except every so often. And the busier our lives got during the Eighties and Nineties, the less often I went there. But about six years ago, I was on my way back from Dallas with one of my daughters and thought I'd take a quick side trip down to the bookstore.

When we got there, the lot was empty. Obviously, the shopping center had been bulldozed and completely cleared away. If the bookstore had a going-out-of-business sale, I missed it. If it moved somewhere else, I missed that, too. It's not anywhere around here, I know that. I don't know what, if anything, is standing in that location today. I haven't been back.

Of course, that wasn't the only disappointment that day. We also planned to stop at a place that had really good pie, and when we got there, it was out of business, too. Dang. Some days you just can't win.


Richard R. said...

There was a place not dissimilar to this ne in Tustin, near where I lived before I moved to Portland. It was two-story though, rather ten rambling through back rooms, the upstairs divided into about three rooms. Old wood floors, wood shelves 8 or 9 feet high, boxes everywhere. I bought a lot of things, and now I'd gone in and bought five times as much.

One day I went, looking for something, and it was empty. Like you I'd had no warning. The pricing policy was purely owner-decide-at-purchase, which met a lot of asking "how much is this?". That was okay, most of it was still cheap.

I am loving this series!

Anonymous said...

James, I think I have been to that place. If it is the place I am thinking of I had bought a few books there and decided that I would return at another time and buy some others I wanted. When I returned the only room left was the front room because the roof had collapsed during rain storm. Thousands of books had been destroyed, including the section with the books I was wanting. They were trying to sell the rest of the books so they could close, and I think I bought a few things. It was sad.


James Reasoner said...

Danny, I bet that was it. It was on Grapevine Highway a mile or so north of Birdville High School, close to where Rufe Snow crosses Grapevine Highway. The Montgomery Ward Outlet Store used to be across the street from it. Livia and I bought a sofa there we used for years and years. The pie place was Tippin's, on the other end of Rufe Snow just north of Loop 820. (All of which means nothing to those of you who don't live in Fort Worth, I know.)

katieh said...

This was my grandparents bookstore. I have wonderful memories of going all the way to the back where the kid section was and sitting on a stool to read my new finds. I would give anything to go in there one last time. I was also just talking about tippins the other day, I miss that place too. It is so nice to know that other people enjoyed the store as much as our family did.

James Reasoner said...

I'm so glad you commented. It was always fun going into the store, especially winding around through those back rooms. If it was still there I think I could still find the mysteries, the Westerns, and the historical novels. It's hard to find bookstores like that anymore, and I miss them.

Jaye Wells said...

The owners of the Book Swap were also my grandparents (KatieH above in my cuz). I grew up in this bookstore. Every summer I would hide back in those labyrinthine rooms and read when I was supposed to shelving. I can still still that place. Man, it was awesome. Thanks for honoring the place my grandparents worked so hard to build. It was a labor of love to be sure!

James Reasoner said...

Jaye, thanks for your comments. If the store still existed I'd love to pay it another visit.