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Where were Houston's bookstores?


Subdude

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The Rice Village discussion got me thinking about this.  When I was a wee little boy not in Houston, there were a few small independent bookshops about (there were no chains at all).  

 

Where were the independent bookstores in Houston?  I don't remember a thing before Bookstop. 

 

 

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I know the book store in the Rice village to which you may be referring. I cannot remember the name but it was (is?) in the same building as the Briar Shoppe. There are a few others on Bissonnet (2300-2400 block), Murder-by-the-Book and Brazos Book Store. Brown Book Store downtown sells primarily technical books and manuals.

 

Another very cool (but no longer in existence) book store was Colleen's on Telephone Road at Airport. Yes, that's the right location. Colleen Urbanek sold used, antique, and rare books mostly in the subject area of political science and history. She sold her inventory several years ago (I believe she was in her early 80's at the time) to a buyer on the east coast and has since passed away. Ironically, there was an article on Colleen's in the Houston Press 18 years ago this day, June 13, 1996. http://www.houstonpress.com/1996-06-13/news/old-and-rare/ .

 

As far as independent bookstores are concerned, apart from those mentioned above, I am at a loss. Sub, I don't know how old you are but I am just a couple of years away from being AARP eligible. Reaching awareness of such things like which store sold what in the 1970's I remember the shopping mall as the place to buy books and magazines other than the tabloids. Walden Books and B. Dalton were the major stores then. Bookstop and Borders came along a little later. Now it seems Amazon, along with Kindle, is ringing the death knell for those as well.

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Foley's (now Macy's) had a very nice book department inside their stores at one time. They also sold music; records and cassettes, etc...You often went to a department store to get things like that. There weren't as many specialty stores.   

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All I an do is give a list, but the Village area in the mid 1970s had Cobler Books (2517 Times Blvd.), Detering Book Gallery (2311 Bissonnet), Brazos (2314 Bissonnet), and Kendrick Books (2429 Rice Blvd.).

 

Other random ones:

 

Montrose had the Libran Book Shop (3700 Yoakum) and Montrose Book Shop (719 Hawthorne).

 

Southeast - Bellfort Book Store (7143 Bellfort), Palms Book Store (2113 Telephone), and the already mentioned Colleen's (6880 Telephone). Oh, and of course, Mr. Peepers at 5200 Telephone (lol).

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Another very cool (but no longer in existence) book store was Colleen's on Telephone Road at Airport. Yes, that's the right location. Colleen Urbanek sold used, antique, and rare books mostly in the subject area of political science and history. She sold her inventory several years ago (I believe she was in her early 80's at the time) to a buyer on the east coast and has since passed away. Ironically, there was an article on Colleen's in the Houston Press 18 years ago this day, June 13, 1996. http://www.houstonpress.com/1996-06-13/news/old-and-rare/ .

 

Colleen's was fantastic. You could get lost in there for days browsing, and Colleen herself was quite a character. She had an awesome selection of Texana, the best of any bookstore in the city. 

 

If we're talking antiquarian bookshops (not necessarily the same thing as independent bookshops), in addition to Colleen's there was A Book Buyer's Shop, originally on Studewood until Larry McMurtry took it over and opened Booked Up there. A Book Buyer's Shop relocated to Shepherd in one of the houses along the curve between W. Gray and W. Dallas, and remained there until the owner passed away and his daughter liquidated the inventory. Booked Up closed down when McMurtry consolidated his inventory in Archer City in several huge buildings (now greatly reduced in size, as he recently sold off a significant chunk of his holdings), and the former Booked Up location now houses a dog groomer. 

 

Another place that had a very nice selection of collectible Texana was the Out Of Print Book Shop, on Times Blvd. in the Rice Village - not sure if they moved to another location or shut down. And of course Detering Book Gallery on Bissonnet, which stood tall among Houston's rare book dealers. Detering downsized their more common stock to re-emphasize their focus on the higher-end antiquarian market, and relocated from the house on Bissonnet (now the restaurant Antica Osteria) to a much smaller space within the Museum of Printing History on W. Clay. In 2008 it was rebranded as Graham Book Gallery when longtime Detering manager Oscar Graham bought the business upon Herman Detering's retirement. 

 

Gamadge's Book House was a relatively short-lived generalist dealer on Richmond - the exact location escapes me now, but it was in Montrose, I believe between the boulevard and Mandell. There was another shop that I can't remember the name of on Richmond just past Shepherd, across the street from the Sandman Building. 

 

Becker's Books on Westview is another place you could get lost in for days - it's another bookshop that's in a converted house, and they have a truly staggering number of books onsite in addition to an offsite warehouse. 

 

Most of these shops were in business during the 1990s and early 2000s. Just like new book shops, the Internet has brought significant changes to the collectible/antiquarian shops, but despite the number of shops that have closed in Houston over the past 25 years or so, I think the antiquarian trade as a whole is in decent shape. As the old joke goes, one makes a small fortune as a bookseller by starting with a large fortune.

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There was a good bookstore, I think on Shepherd at Alabama.  It was part of a small chain of may be three or four.  I didn't buy many books there, but it had a fantastic selection of foreign newspapers and magazines.  I'l load up every couple of weeks.

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There was a good bookstore, I think on Shepherd at Alabama.  It was part of a small chain of may be three or four.  I didn't buy many books there, but it had a fantastic selection of foreign newspapers and magazines.  I'l load up every couple of weeks.

 

That would have been Bookstop, in the old Alabama Theatre (complete with sloping floor and balcony, all preserved).  It's now Trader Joe's.

 

There was a certain amount of... courting activity that took place down among the magazines, near where the screen used to be.

Edited by mollusk
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That would have been Bookstop, in the old Alabama Theatre (complete with sloping floor and balcony, all preserved).  It's now Trader Joe's.

 

There was a certain amount of... courting activity that took place down among the magazines, near where the screen used to be.

 

I know the Bookstop, but this wasn't that.  It was on the other side of the street, and was much smaller.  Just one floor.  For some reason I think it had an orange roof.

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I was introduced to Colleen through her sister, Lucille, who was also my neighbor at the time. I would never ask Colleen why she located her store where she did - I don't think that would have been polite but her sister told me that the location turned out to be very convenient for her out-of-town customers of which she had several.

 

They could fly into Hobby, take a cab to her store (less than a mile), get their book(s), and be back at the terminal in no time. This also gave them the opportunity to browse. Remember Colleen not only sold books she was a locator of rare books as well.

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I know the Bookstop, but this wasn't that.  It was on the other side of the street, and was much smaller.  Just one floor.  For some reason I think it had an orange roof.

 

Since you mentioned foreign newspapers and magazines, might you be thinking of Superstand? Not precisely a bookstore as much as a newsstand on steroids, but it matches all the other criteria in your description. 

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I know the Bookstop, but this wasn't that.  It was on the other side of the street, and was much smaller.  Just one floor.  For some reason I think it had an orange roof.

 

Since you mentioned foreign newspapers and magazines, might you be thinking of Superstand? Not precisely a bookstore as much as a newsstand on steroids, but it matches all the other criteria in your description. 

There was a Superstand, long out of business now, at Avalon and Shepherd where the Chipotle is now. There was another along Westheimer between Fondren and Voss/Hillcroft to the left of where the Tan Tan is. I believe there were other locations in Houston as well before their overexpansion got the best of them.

Issues ended up filling the void of Superstand but they too just recently closed.

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Brown Bookstore originally stocked books in all subjects before specializing in technical publications.

 

At one time, there was a medical book store on Main near the corner of Holcombe; I believe it was in the same building as a large, important-looking restaurant whose name I've forgotten.

 

The Museum of Fine Arts used to have a tiny bookshop in the Law Building. Currently, there's an extensive selection of books on art and architecture.in the gift shop in the Beck Building.

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Brown Bookstore originally stocked books in all subjects before specializing in technical publications.

 

At one time, there was a medical book store on Main near the corner of Holcombe; I believe it was in the same building as a large, important-looking restaurant whose name I've forgotten.

 

   It was acouple of blocks north of Holcombe, in a strip center.  But I think it was Brown Books...  It was across from, or diagonally across from, what was a medical professional building and is now a Baylor faculty building; parking garage on the bottom with multi colored panels...

   I think the Baylor Clinics building is where the strip center was.

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   It was acouple of blocks north of Holcombe, in a strip center.  But I think it was Brown Books...  It was across from, or diagonally across from, what was a medical professional building and is now a Baylor faculty building; parking garage on the bottom with multi colored panels...

   I think the Baylor Clinics building is where the strip center was.

 

Majors Books. It used to be in the long-gone strip center at Dryden and Main and moved to a new location on Fannin when the strip center was torn down.

 

http://www.chron.com/business/article/Majors-Books-to-close-after-decades-of-business-1602579.php

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Lofgren's Bookstore that used to be on Park Place Blvd. House of Books that was on Stella Link. Bookstore that was in same center on Post Oak Blvd. with Esther Wolf. Majors Books on Fannin. Book Departments of Foley's, Sakowitz, and Joske's. Cougar Bookstore.

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A few more: 

 

Sam Houston Book Shop in the Galleria

 

Northside Book Emporium on Tidwell, a used paperback shop in the early 70s that had thousands of paperbacks in a storefront filled with rows and rows of bookcases. When I was a kid I could never wait to go to this place to see if they'd gotten in any new-to-me Bantam paperback reprints of Doc Savage pulps. Owned by the imposing Mr. Van Cleave, whose gruff exterior masked a heart of gold. 

 

Paperbacks Etc., another paperback shop run out of a converted house on Shepherd near Alabama by an incredibly nice retired couple (I think they lived in the part of the house that wasn't devoted to the bookstore). I believe this place stayed in business until the mid-to-late 1990s - when they closed up shop I assumed it was due to health problems. Once I was paying by check when buying several books, and when I automatically handed the owner my driver's license, he waved it off and said that anyone buying the books I had was clearly an honest man. 

Edited by mkultra25
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A few more: 

 

Paperbacks Etc., another paperback shop run out of a converted house on Shepherd near Alabama by an incredibly nice retired couple (I think they lived in the part of the house that wasn't devoted to the bookstore). I believe this place stayed in business until the mid-to-late 1990s - when they closed up shop I assumed it was due to health problems. Once I was paying by check when buying several books, and when I automatically handed the owner my driver's license, he waved it off and said that anyone buying the books I had was clearly an honest man. 

 

I'm wondering if this is the same one Editor mentioned above.

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There was a good bookstore, I think on Shepherd at Alabama.  It was part of a small chain of may be three or four.  I didn't buy many books there, but it had a fantastic selection of foreign newspapers and magazines.  I'l load up every couple of weeks.

 

I worked at the Bookstop out on Memorial. There was a substantial magazine selection. That was the internet, I guess. I remember an elderly gentleman with a number tattooed on his forearm would come in most weeks to buy a copy of Der Spiegel.

I was sixteen and found it great fun to work there. My favorite of my co-workers was a somewhat shady, eccentric laid-off petroleum geologist, for whom the Bookstop was pretty much the last stop. He liked to buy books for me, in an effort to get the nonsense out of my head, but disdained our store and preferred to buy them at Detering's.

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  • 7 years later...
30 minutes ago, Gimme7 said:

Wasn't there a Waldenbooks and B. Dalton bookstore located in downtown Houston, Texas?

Seems like it was one of these two that used to be in the Park at Houston Center. There definitely was one in there during the 80's.

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5 hours ago, dbigtex56 said:

Seems like it was one of these two that used to be in the Park at Houston Center. There definitely was one in there during the 80's.

And in the early 90's when I worked DT and would walk over to the Park to look at books. There may have been both for a while.

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  • 1 month later...
On 9/15/2021 at 4:28 PM, Dave W said:

I remember M. Herrick Books in Westbury Square.

I remember a book store in Westbury Square - even though just a kid - and that probably was the name of it. Thanks. Great memories of that whole complex.

Edited by Gurgis
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No one has mentioned The Book Collector in Rice Village, which back in the 1990's filled the little house at the southeast corner of Morningside and University. They specialized in first editions, Civil War, and Napoleonic history, as well as very expensive toy soldiers. All over the main room were first editions of books like The Great Gatsby, The Sound and the Fury, Catch-22, Rebecca, The Old Man and the Sea, etc., priced at thousands apiece, enticingly displayed, but if you touched one of them, an alarm went off. The owner was a heavyset man named James Taylor (IIRC) who would talk your ear off if you looked like you had money and pretty much ignore you if you didn't. If you were the well-dressed wife of one of his toy soldier collectors (these miniatures ran $500-$1,000 apiece) coming to buy a gift for her husband, he would lick the bottoms of your shoes. It was difficult to browse and focus on what you were looking at with the sound of his sycophancy bellowing through the store. Then there were his declarations that he had "the best selection in the South," that he'd "pay more for your books than anyone in the South." I will give him this much credit: he was a unique person in a unique place, of a type that was disappearing from the world.

I look at Google Earth and am surprised to see 1/4 Price Books still in the same location on South Shepherd that I remember visiting 20 years ago. I would not go there again but I do credit the owner for staying in business. We chatted a bit about books and then I brought to the counter a copy of The Savage Mind by Claude Levi-Strauss. He loudly remarked, "Levi-Strauss! The good stuff!" with a look of mockery, as though to question the caliber of my reading. I think he thought I was getting a book about the maker of blue jeans rather than the French anthropologist. 

Becker's Books is another one where my one or two visits 15-20 years ago will have to do, I have no desire to ever go back. Decent selection though, and perhaps time has mellowed the owner? There is something about running a used book shop in Houston that brings out the "big fish in a small pond" syndrome to an unbearable degree.

The one place whose owner was congenial was Copperfield's on Louetta at Champion Forest Dr. He had the kindly demeanor and quiet manner that one envisions in a used book shop owner. The selection wasn't anything special - I suppose he was dependent on what people brought in - but his character sticks in my memory. The shop is long gone now; hope he came out well in the end. 

Edited by H-Town Man
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20 hours ago, H-Town Man said:

No one has mentioned The Book Collector in Rice Village, which back in the 1990's filled the little house at the southeast corner of Morningside and University.

[...]

Becker's Books is another one where my one or two visits 15-20 years ago will have to do, I have no desire to ever go back. Decent selection though, and perhaps time has mellowed the owner? There is something about running a used book shop in Houston that brings out the "big fish in a small pond" syndrome to an unbearable degree.

I had forgotten about The Book Collector when this thread started. I visited it a few times but was not a regular customer, not least for many of the reasons you mentioned. 

As far as Becker's, I haven't been there in years, but I had a pretty negative experience with an online order I placed with them through ABE for a fairly hard-to-find book related to local history. Ordered the book, order was processed, no book after a month. Emailed them, and got an apology for the package never arriving and a promise to send out another copy via expedited shipping. Three weeks later, the purported replacement copy had not arrived. Emailed again, another apology and a promise to issue a refund as they could not locate another copy of the book. Several days later, still no refund, emailed again, got a perfunctory response that they would be in touch if they ever located another copy of the book. I don't recall whether I ever actually got the refund, but the entire experience was enough to sour me on ever doing business with them again. 

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On 9/23/2021 at 1:08 AM, mattyt36 said:

Lobo and Crossroads served such a purpose back in the day!

Also, if you want to go back a few years, The WIlde 'N' Stein bookstore at the Westheimer Mini-Mall (near the Happy Budda).
It was operated by a very petite man, whose name was Small. He always wore black clothing. Nice guy.
 

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On 9/15/2021 at 5:28 PM, Dave W said:

I remember M. Herrick Books in Westbury Square.

There was a seller of new books in Westbury Square around 1979-80. They had a selection of Usborne books and other imports that was more extensive than you would find in an ordinary store. Was this Herrick? By the mid-80s they were gone, but a seller of comics and collectible magazines had opened around the corner. It was staffed by an older gentleman, plus a younger man with a brit accent who moved very slowly and carefully, as if he were over-cautious about damaging collectible stuff.

The original Brown Book Store (located on Westheimer near the Hobbit Hole restaurant) and the Sam Houston bookstore in the Galleria both had elevated children's sections, so as a kid you would feel like you were climbing into a treehouse.

A quote from:

"Further west near Kirkwood, in the 1980s people began converting those mini-storage units facing Beechnut into storefronts. That seemed to last for a long time, but I don't remember seeing any storefronts on a recent drive-through."

I believe the writer of this post may be referring to a complex which was home to A Few Books & Records in the mid-80s. I had just seen The NeverEnding Story, and all the old books reminded me of the bookstore in the film. It then moved to a strip-style shopping center (possibly at 11332 Beechnut) that was also the location of a teen club.

There was a 7" record on display behind the counter, called "Alief, My Alief," or something like that. I never bought the record, and have never been able to find the recording online. Does anyone remember it?

The owner, a tall, thin, middle-aged man with glasses and a receding hairline, passed away about 1987 and the store was inherited by two of his elderly female relatives. They seemed at a loss over how to manage the store. They tried stocking it with a paltry selection of Warhammer figures to bring in a fresh crowd, but complained bitterly when it didn't work and moved the store to a stall in an antiques mall to save on rent.

Edited by bugtoaster
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On 9/26/2021 at 2:17 AM, bugtoaster said:

There was a seller of new books in Westbury Square around 1979-80. They had a selection of Usborne books and other imports that was more extensive than you would find in an ordinary store. Was this Herrick? By the mid-80s they were gone, but a seller of comics and collectible magazines had opened around the corner. It was staffed by an older gentleman, plus a younger man with a brit accent who moved very slowly and carefully, as if he were over-cautious about damaging collectible stuff.

 

On 9/26/2021 at 2:17 AM, bugtoaster said:

 

 

 

 

 

 

M. Herrick was the original bookstore in Westbury Square back in the early 60s. It was later called Westbury Square Books. But I was gone from Houston by 1979-80 so I don't know about the store you're referring to.

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