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The Paperback Exchange, 1234 Assembly Street: 1980s   13 comments

Posted at 4:54 pm in historic,stores

The Paperback Exchange was on of my favorite places downtown in the 70s and 80s. It was not fancy, in fact it was a dump. My memory says that it was a little one story building on the East side of Assembly. The address was very easy to memorize, and is now occupied either by the former AT&T building or a the parking garage, I'm not sure which, so I'm including pictures of both.

The place had big glass windows on either side of a central door, and there was a wide wooden display shelf behind each window. I don't know what the building housed originally, but by the time The Paperback Exchange occupied it, this area was strewn with old magazines and comics yellowing in the afternoon sun.

The place was definitely a bit seedy, and porn was a good part of their stock in trade, along with men's "adventure" magazines like, um Argosy, Soldier of Fortune and the like. (Looking back, I'm a little surprised my mom would drop me off there sometimes while she shopped. Of course, she would have first look at whatever I bought...) There were never many customers when I was there, and I've wondered over the years if perhaps the place was a front of some sort though I never saw any indication of that at the time.

All that aside, what I went for was the Science Fiction rack (and later in the 80s, used comics). This was more or less in the center of the store and was, I believe, two double-sided wooden rack units. The books were in no particular order, but they did seem to turn over with fair regularity, and the place always seemed to have quite a few Ace Doubles. This was an interesting concept that Ace books pioneered in the 50s and 60s (though it lasted into the 70s) where the company would publish two books (often novellas by today's length standards) under the same cover, but upside-down to each other. Each book would have it's own front cover and there was (necessarily) no "back" cover. The books might be by the same author (Jack Vance: The Houses of Iszm with Jack Vance: The Son of the Tree for example) or different authors (Jaunita Coulson: The Singing Stones with E. C. Tubb Derai for another). Although I did not know this at the time, Donald A. Wollheim, who later founded DAW Books was the SF editor at Ace during a large part of this time, and since his tastes were often congruent with mine, I liked a lot of those old Ace Doubles. Anyway, I got a bit distracted there -- my point was going to be that at the time, at The Paperback Exchange, those doubles weren't yet collectible, they were just old and over the years I added many to my shelves.

The end came with development. As I said, I'm not sure exactly which of these two building occupies exactly the "1234" address, but between the two of them, they took out the entire contents of the first block of Assembly. I'm not saying The Paperback Exchange was any architectural treasure either, but in my opinion the AT&T building, at least, should not have been built there as it overshadows the Capitol... As far as I could tell, The Paperback Exchange never relocated to any other spot after it was evicted -- there were several other such operations in town at the time and perhaps they didn't have the margin to reestablish and compete. At any rate, I still have all those Ace Doubles.

Written by ted on October 1st, 2008

13 Responses to 'The Paperback Exchange, 1234 Assembly Street: 1980s'

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  1. I used to wander in there at lunch time when I worked downtown. The man who ran it had some serious health problems at the time they closed, but after a while he reopened and The Paperback Exchange was in the same group of buildings by the old Sam Solomon store that you've been posting recently. (If you walked out of Sam Solomon's front door, you would be facing the Paperback Exchange to your extreme left.)

    It lasted a few years there. The owner was always right up front in his wheelchair ready to talk about politics with whoever came in. Finally closed maybe 10 years ago when he died.

    Dennis

    2 Oct 08 at 7:11 am

  2. Interesting. I used to get the new phonebook when it came out every year and read all the bookstore listings, but I never knew it moved to Intersection Center. Maybe I was already out of town by then.

    ted

    2 Oct 08 at 9:48 am

  3. For a while after it closed his wife had a note on the door to call her if anyone was interested in buying the entire contents.

    Dennis

    2 Oct 08 at 10:20 am

  4. Wasnt there a place called Paperback Exchange on Broad River Road near the Rush's, in one of those little brick houses?

    IrmoJeff

    2 Oct 08 at 12:31 pm

  5. That was "George's". Curiously enough, I took some pictures of it last weekend. I'll do a post on it soon, but don't want to do two bookstore posts back-to-back.

    ted

    2 Oct 08 at 12:44 pm

  6. Doon't think that no one noticed the Curious George reference.

    Dennis

    2 Oct 08 at 6:38 pm

  7. I would occasionally go up in the 1970s with a friend of mine to do a used bookstore run. The rule of thumb about the comic books was "if it's neatly stacked, all the good stuff is already gone."
    (didnt know that George's store was closed - and with the Happy Bookseller closing - what's left in Columbia?)

    Steven Rowe

    4 Oct 08 at 6:33 pm

  8. Well, last I checked, the Book Exchange still had outlets in Boozer Shopping Center and on Two Notch near O'Neil Court. For new, of course there are the two B&Ns and the two Books-a-Million. And amazon is everywhere..

    ted

    4 Oct 08 at 11:41 pm

  9. This was also the site of The Beat, a dance and new music club upstairs from '84 to about '88 featuring dancing, local and regional bands.
    The same space was briefly home to Trustus theater until pulled down to put up a parking lot around '90.

    Vic Mantolay

    24 Oct 08 at 2:37 pm

  10. Vic - I remember The Beat fondly.

    I'm pretty sure it was two blocks north of there, in the 1400 block of Assembly.

    Dennis

    24 Oct 08 at 3:21 pm

  11. I think this was the same basic location as the old DeSoto Hotel, and a ♂♂ bar called "Our Place." Pretty fuzzy on how they were all situated with respect to each other.

    badger

    11 Feb 09 at 8:42 pm

  12. Actually, that's not the Book Exchange at Boozer and on Two Notch. It's the Book Dispensary.

    John

    12 Feb 09 at 11:51 am

  13. D'oh!

    ted

    12 Feb 09 at 11:59 am

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