By Shawna McNally
Endless aisles of books are haphazardly stacked on the Book Traders' shelves and tables. Customers can peruse at their leisure while chatting with locals and basking in the thousands of book titles. Though bookstores across the city of Spokane are meeting their end as sales decline, owner Hal Moos is confident Book Traders is not going anywhere.
The Garland District's Book Traders offers more than your average used paperback novel. Moos said his bookstore has become a social hub and receives plenty of business on a regular day. Book Traders can take in as many as 2,000 books a day in trades, which accounts for 95 percent of its business. But running the store is more of a hobby than a business for Moos.
Moos had been retired for 12 years before he bought Book Traders. He first planned on clearing out the store for his daughter's new travel agency. When her plans changed, he decided to take over the shop and fell in love with the store.
He started his collection by buying books discovered on his business travels. As his assortment of books grew, he inherited two bookstores, adding to the collection. Soon after, Moos heard of a man in California who was recorded as the biggest collector of paperback books, possessing about 10,000 titles. Owning much more than 10,000, Moos' interest became a full-fledged pastime.
While walking in downtown Spokane a few years ago, Moos was stopped by a man running out of a large bookstore. "You're the King of Paperbacks," the store's owner said. He was shutting his business down and offered Moos any of the bookstore's paperback books to add to the collection. Knowing the price would be high, Moos turned him down. But the man insisted on contributing to the "King" and offered Moos 52,000 books for $100. Moos consented to the amazing deal and took the noble title with him. Book Traders proudly boasts to be home of the "King of Paperbacks" with a sign above the register.
The biggest perk in owning the bookstore, Moos said, is the chance to add to his collection. Moos was named in Ripley's Believe It or Not for having the world's largest collection of paperback books. He currently has about 372,000 different titles. When customers bring in books to trade, Moos gets first pick at any that might not be in his own collection. He takes home ten to 12 sacks full of books each night.
"I might take home 500 books, and bring back 450 duplicates," Moos said. "But the collection is going up all the time."
Moos has always been a fan of books, regularly reading six to eight a day when he was younger. As the owner of a used bookstore, Moos is aware not only of the good stories but also of the history that goes along with pre-owned books. Jessica Shelton has worked at Book Traders for just over four months and has seen a lot of interesting things come along with the books. From pictures, to birthday cards, to old letters, these books come with memories. A number of books traded could even be considered antiques.
"Some of the books are over 100 years old," Shelton said. "People bring them in and have no idea."
The best part of working at Book Traders is interacting with the customers, Moos said. His real joy comes from talking with people. Tons of regulars visit the store each day. One man comes in everyday at 8 a.m. and helps out around the store. He stays all day and refuses to be paid, simply enjoying the chance to talk with people. Thirteen-year-old Christopher Tunca's parents own Lorraine Fine Jewelry across the street from Book Traders. He stops by most days to see people.
"This is one of the most happening places on Garland," Tunca said.