GLADEWATER – Good reading could be adding years to the life of Gladewater bookworm Peter Adams.

The retired Houston defense attorney stepped away from big city hustle and bustle several years ago to reinvent in a small town.

With the support of wife, Elizabeth DeRieux, a patent lawyer, the couple soon launched Gladewater Books, 109 E. Pacific Ave., setting up shop in a century-old building with soaring ceilings, well-worn wood floors and an old book smell that’s difficult to find these days.

“This is a labor of love,” Adams said from behind a small counter crowded with incoming inventory. “This (shop) is a lot of things with me … it’s a vocation, a hobby, a daydream.”

But most importantly, he teased, flashing a wide grin, “It keeps me out of beer joints.”

PAPER STILL POPULAR

At a time in history when many people seem just too busy to read, the bookseller is helping disprove those perceptions.

The shop, which opened in 2007, is one of only a handful of used bookstores left in East Texas and there are no plans to shut the doors anytime soon.

“We’re not going anywhere,” Adams said. “We’re going to be here indefinitely. The rumor is, young people don’t read and that’s false. They do. We get kids in here all the time … the Kindle hasn’t replaced books.”

To this couple and the people they serve, the shop is more than a grand stack of books … it’s a lifestyle.

Spare time is spent reading or helping other people find something to read.

“We’ve just always loved bookstores,” Mrs. DeRieux said. “It’s so different from what I do nine to five. It’s just such a treat to be here … the most fun thing about the store is how many people also love it.”

Customers often remark they enjoy the feel of turning paper pages and the surge of adrenalin that comes from buying a longed-for title for their collection, the couple said.

East Texans, it seems, are big readers of John Grisham, Larry McMurtry and Nora Roberts.

Young readers prefer the wizardry of Harry Potter and anything that tingles the spine.

Adams said he enjoys Hemingway. His wife is a fan of Newbery and Caldecott medal winners, given for quality children’s literature.

“I was a reader as a kid,” she said. “Daddy taught speech … we would read the dictionary. If somebody said a word during dinner that somebody didn’t understand, we would reach for the dictionary.”

The couple is always on the hunt for cool stuff to stock the shelves.

There’s no copy of Smith County Justice at the moment, but the search continues.

“We’ve bought out the inventories of three Tyler book stores,” he said. “I scrounge books anywhere I can find them: Goodwill, garage sales, estate sales.”

Adams said he occasionally buys from private individuals, who are often surprised at his offers.

“I sell cheap and I buy cheap," he said. "I always tell people, ‘It’s not worth your while to bring us books.’ We are notorious cheapskates.”

NO FRILLS

Gladewater Books tops out at about 5,000 square feet and houses roughly 150,000 books, available for in-person purchases and online through the website, Alibris.com.

A similar number of books are warehoused off-site, allowing the couple to replenish as often as preferred.

It’s not uncommon to find objects tucked between pages, such as love notes and photographs, but no money, at least not yet.

Shop aisles are carefully labeled, featuring signs drawn by local cartoonist Monty Graham and random lamps picked up at garage sales.

What’s not included in this downtown Gladewater institution is a lot of frills and excesses.

He doesn’t do trades.   

There’s also no free Wi-Fi, no coffee bar, no blaring music, no finger foods, no cushy couches, no book clubs, no book signings, no day care and no knick-knacks.

“I guess I’m a curmudgeon,” he said with a light shrug. “It’s (shop) for reading and books. It’s not for anything else. I never look over anyone’s shoulder. I tell them I’m available if they need help.”

This hands-off approach seems to be good for customer relations.

Carol Thompson, of Pritchett, is a fan of his “less is more” approach.

“I just love stores like this,” she said. “I really like the nostalgia. I like the way he runs it. You can take your time and if you need help, you get it.”

Gladewater Books is open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, and can be reached through Facebook or by calling 903-845-4843.

Adams said he doesn’t miss crowded court dockets, late hours and constant stress that dominated in his lawyering days.

In fact, his most public gig today is serving as president of the Friends of the Gladewater Library.

“It’s a huge relief to be here,” he said. “I’ve probably added years to my life,”

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Reporter

Jacque Hilburn-Simmons is an award-winning journalist who has been writing professionally for 30 years. She's a former police reporter who also wrote a book about the KFC murder. She shares stories about East Texas through her Behind the Wheel column.