In honor of Independent Bookstore Day, Half Price Books salutes the many great independent bookstores around the country (and around the world)! We are proud to be part of a field that involves noble entrepreneurs, clerks and advisors who provide knowledge and entertainment—by way of books—to so many. Independent bookstores remain strong as centers of their community, fonts of wisdom and refuges in the age of instant gratification.
Bob Reitz, longtime bookseller at Half Price Books Flagship in Dallas, TX, recently spoke to customers about his collection of books about bookstores. It was a fascinating topic to those of us who put “find the best local bookstores” at the top of every travel-itinerary list. Here are the highlights from Bob.
What have been some of the best bookstore discoveries you’ve made when you’ve traveled to new places?
Bob: I was happy to make it to the Tattered Cover Book Store, which is housed in an 1884-era building in downtown Denver, CO in an area they now call LODO (Lower Denver).
Are there any you like to make it back to as often as possible?
Bob: I’d like to visit Wolfmueller’s Books again. It’s on the square in downtown Kerrville, TX. It’s a combination new and used bookstore. I was looking for the book Capturing Nature: The Cement Sculptures of Dionicio Rodriguez by Patty Light. He was known for his “faux concrete” style, which replicated trees and rocks in highly detailed forms. Two of his pieces sit in front of the Witte Museum in San Antonio, TX.
Any independent bookstores you haven’t made it to that are on your list?
Bob: I have a couple of “aspirational” bookmarks from Powell’s in Portland, OR and The Strand in New York City, both of which I would like to visit.
Tell us about some of your favorite “books about bookstores.”
Bob: I have forty books about bookstores in my collection, but two are very special. First, Stanley Marcus – A Life in Books, by David Farmer, is about Stanley Marcus, the president of the iconic Neiman-Marcus clothing store in downtown Dallas. He collected books in Dallas from the late 1920s through the 1960s. And then there’s The Art of the Bookstore by Gibbs Smith. Smith was a book publisher, and whenever he visited bookstores around the country, he would paint the front or the inside of bookstores, capturing their unique essence. He painted 68 different bookstores.
What elements do you think can make an independent bookstore special?
Bob: The overall atmosphere is important, and being able to find a person extremely knowledgeable in your interests.
What was your best find in an independent bookstore?
Bob: I spent fifteen years searching at Half Price Books in Dallas for an art retrospective book on Washington D.C. stripe painter, Gene Davis. He was part of the Washington Color School and painted two blocks’-worth of color stripes on the pavement of Pennsylvania Avenue.
So you finally found it at HPB?
Bob: Yes, indeed!