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George's Book Exchange, Broad River Road: 1990s   10 comments

Posted at 11:23 pm in historic,stores

This former residence on Broad River Road about a mile North of I-20 was for many years George's Book Exchange (I might not be recalling the name exactly right though "George's" was certainly in it). The Dutch Square area used to be pretty rich in book stores. Inside the mall itself, there was Walden's (which was still there last time I checked, though not in the original location) and some sort of mainly greeting card store which was down the internal hill from Waldens and on the other side of the walkway. It had several paperback racks with a different mix of books than Waldens. Across Dutch Square Boulevard from the Mall there was Cookesbury, which at the time seemed more general interest than the Christian focus it now has, and down on Bush River Road, somewhere past K-Mart and before I-26, was the Book Exchange which is now in Boozer.

Unlike all those, George's was not in walking distance of Dutch Square, but once I started driving, it was easy to check out when I was in the general area. Also, unlike all those, it must be admited that George's had a lot of R and X rated material. The professor I had for the Science Fiction elective I took at USC actually called the place "Scummy George's", but I don't think that's wholly fair. He had all sorts of books, and the mainstream books were not just a front for the adult stuff. (And some of the adult stuff seemed to be "collectible" issues of Playboy etc).

In my particular area of interest, the store always had a good bit of SF, including from time to time issues of the old SF pulps from the 50s & 60s. I remember picking up several old issues of Galaxy and Worlds of If there as well as lots of SF books. As far as I can recall, there was ever only one person at a time working the store (it wasn't large). I can't remember if it was always the same guy, but I'm sure that at least sometime it had to be the eponymous George.

Eventually, I stopped going to used book stores very often. I guess I got rather spoiled by having a real job, and knowing that if I wanted a book, I could just buy it new. Then came Amazon, and now I can find $0.01 copies of lots of used books if I want them. There's still a lot to be said for going to a used book store and stumbling over something you weren't looking for, but I nonetheless do it much less now than then. At some point after I tapered off (and was living in Aiken anyway), George's closed. I don't know if George retired, passed away, moved or just found it wasn't profitable anymore. Whatever the reason, the building now houses a barber shop. Of course if it's like most barber shops, the magazines in there now aren't any newer than George's collectibles..

Written by ted on October 4th, 2008

10 Responses to 'George's Book Exchange, Broad River Road: 1990s'

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  1. I've got some bad news for you, Waldens is gone in Dutch Square. It closed about 2 years ago I think.

    ChiefDanGeorge

    5 Oct 08 at 4:56 am

  2. I went to this bookstore once, when i was in like 5th or 6th grade...i was doing a report on whales or something and somehow we found out that this place had old issues of National Geographic so one Saturday morning me and my dad took a trip over there.

    I still remember sitting on the floor thumbing thru NatGeo's and hearing my dad's breath catch and looking up to see him looking at *something* wide eyed.

    It wasnt until years later that i understood why my normally thrifty dad paid for about 8 old magazines (which was about 6 more than i needed) and hustled me out of there post haste.

    IrmoJeff

    5 Oct 08 at 9:05 am

  3. Hey Ted,
    Do you or any one else for that matter remember the water slide that use to be on Two Notch Rd? Now that brings back some memories.

    pcoop

    5 Oct 08 at 12:44 pm

  4. The waterslide on Two Notch has been discussed a couple of times, most in depth here.

    Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures, and for some reason or other never went on it myself, so I don't have much to make a standalone post about it.

    ted

    5 Oct 08 at 1:05 pm

  5. I have no strong memories of George's or really of George - although my friend that I went bookstore
    hopping with, had plenty of George stories to tell. The market for used bookstores seems to have died about the time video stores came in - or so my memory says.

    Steven R

    5 Oct 08 at 2:20 pm

  6. Well, point him this way..

    ted

    6 Oct 08 at 5:29 pm

  7. I suspect my friend's George stories might be durn close to libel.....

    Steven R

    15 Nov 08 at 10:20 am

  8. In my college days at USC (grad school 1973-78) and thereafter I didn't have a car, but I used to take a bus to Dutch Square and a long walk to check out George's Book Store. They had a nice collection of old stuff, well organized. I bought lots and lots of old paperbacks and magazines there, and still have some books on my shelves with their stamp. Things sold for something like 60% of the cover price, except for rare-and-collectable items. I always saw the same guy behind the counter, a dark-haired, clean-cut, poker-faced guy who rarely spoke. Maybe this was "George."

    One day circa 1983, I visited another near-downtown Columbia used book store. This one specialized in hardcover books, but had a dilapidated little shelf of "Sci-Fi PB's." Old paperbacks, but, wow! They dated back to the early 1960s—some of than had 35-cent cover prices—and were important works by Farmer, Leiber, Asimov, Heinlein, Edgar Rice Burroughs, those kind of guys. And, for half the cover price. I'm not into the collector-dealer mentality, but I couldn't pass this up! I bought a bagful of the best ones, and the shop owner seemed glad to get rid of them.

    I hurried (by now I had a car) out to "George's." Do you buy science fiction books, I asked. Yes, but not too often, the guy told me. I showed him the loot in my bag, expecting him to keel over. Nope. Not interested.

    I couldn't believe it! He had the same editions of these books in little plastic bags on the wall right over his head with "$6.00" price tags on 'em. If those prices were realistic, the contents of my bag were worth a hundred bucks at least, and he didn't offer a cent.

    So, what the heck was with "George"? How can a book dealer pass up good books? Was he just hired help and didn't care? Was that whole store just a "front" for something else?

    That sack of books may still be around here, with the titles now half-a-century old. Wish I could find it.

    That's my penultimate George's-Book-Store story. I have one more to tell.

    Don

    1 May 11 at 10:46 am

  9. "Georges" will always have a warm (And-icky) place in my heart. This was one of the first used-book stores in Columbia that carried old comic books. My buddies and I discovered this little gem in the late 1970s; boxes, and boxes of used 1960s (sometimes 1950s) comic boxes. What a thrill it was to make the weekly journey and blow our allowance! This was the type of comic book “honey hole” that we had only read about being in far-away places like New York City, etc., not suburbia-Columbia/St. Andrews.

    George himself was the only person I ever remember working there, and he always seemed to be in the same position behind the counter each time you’d drop in; seated, leaning with his elbow on the counter, head resting in his palm, “Mumble,mumble,…come on in, how’s it going?” Never moving. (Did he eat or sleep like normal people? We could only wonder.) He was always nice and personable, if I recall.

    I guess we did notice the “adult” content in the backroom but given the interest in comics we didn’t have any interest in that stuff (That came later, of course!). I will say that as time went by the shop seemed to be less about comics and non-XXX used books, and more about the “adult” aspect.

    We stopped going due to lack of new comic stock, the fact that in the early 1980s old-comic prices went sky-high (Which meant Georges went even higher) and the bargains dried up, and yeah, the place did become somewhat seedy.

    John Coates

    2 Dec 11 at 12:30 pm

  10. My final George story …

    There was a small room off the big room, which I found had copies of higher-priced paperbacks, collector stuff priced well above the usual 60% of cover. I picked out a few items (couldn’t afford too many of these) and bought them. The attendant (George?) rang them up, but called my attention to a sign over the doorway to that room that said something about entry by permission only. “Oops!” I said. “No big deal” was the reply. Of course it’s no big deal, I thought. I’ve been a good and frequent customer, had dropped a lot of cash here.

    The next time I visited, I picked out a bundle of books and magazines from the regular stock, then dutifully asked if I could check out the collector’s room. “No,” I was told. I was stunned. No further explanation was offered.
    Well, I wasn’t about to patronize the place any more after that. I carefully put back every item that I had planned to buy exactly where I found it (though I should’ve dropped ‘em on the floor), and left quietly, never to return.

    Why would a shopkeeper do that? Was he really offended that I wandered in there once, so much so that he was willing to write off a once-loyal customer? I never could figure that guy out, and would make no further attempts.

    Don

    24 Dec 13 at 11:35 pm

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