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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...

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