The Wild Detectives: How This Little House in Oak Cliff Will Become Dallas' Newest Bookstore

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The future home of The Wild Detectives
Just a few porches east of 8th and Bishop in Oak Cliff sits an unassuming 1940s home. Surrounded by residential properties, the white 2/1 doesn't appear fated for grand ambitions. But if local literary activists Paco Vique and Javier Garcia del Moral get their way, that's precisely what's going to happen.

Soon, this neglected crash pad will convert into The Wild Detectives, Dallas' only independent bookstore that focuses on new, rather than used, inventory.

They've been picking at red tape since September. Because their shop will also be a café, and later a wine and beer bar, Vique and Garcia have battled the code compliance gauntlet, a perilous terrain booby-trapped with food-handling and TABC permits. They'll need plumbing and HVAC overhauls, a finagled parking agreement and eventually a private club license so they can pour that wine. But after eight months of study and negotiations, they cautiously predict the pathway has been cleared.

Now, they say, they're on track to begin demolition by early June -- save for a final round of inspections and permits wrapping in the next two weeks.

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All that labor to open a bookstore café? In a time of drive-through espresso bars and Amazon Prime allegiances, the energy expended seems to outweigh the operation's profit potential. Don't worry, assures Vique. That askew ratio isn't lost on them.

"It's kind of a suicide to open a bookstore these days," Vique says, surveying the space. "It's a little crazy."

But what they have going for them is unique: Both their outlook and business plan are decidedly un-Dallas. Civil engineers and longtime friends, Garcia and Vique aren't entering this project expecting a payout. In fact, they seem pleased with possibly breaking even.

Steeped in the European mindset of community-building being a side effect of wine and well-curated literature, Garcia and Vique see this store as another way to contribute to local culture. They already man the monthly Spanish film series Pata Negra at Texas Theatre, which celebrates a one-year run with the Almordovar romp Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, on Saturday, June 1.

The Wild Detectives -- a titular tease from a Bolaño novel -- is a means of extending that ideology into other avenues of creative union. They hope this little house will become a hub of idea exchange for Bishop Arts, where neighbors can gather for salon-style, literary discussions. Or just drink and talk, whatever.

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The Wild Detectives, off duty.
"If we can just make some people find new writers and authors, and have a place [to] talk about this stuff? That's what we're looking for," says Vique. "There's a lot of life around cafés."

Getting to there from here will be challenging. This house they're leasing (then buying) has gone feral. Rusted chains that formerly supported a porch swing now dangle ominously without purpose; the deck's wood is gap-toothed, splintered and rotting out.

"We're trying to reuse most of it," says Garcia, as he flips through post-remodel CADD projections of the space. When the weathered carpet is lifted, he says, solid wood floors are exposed. The supporting beams are strong. And soon the interior walls will be pummeled, leaving the original brick fireplaces as focal points. Outside, the tiny craftsman details built into the facade sit patiently underneath the hangnailed paint, waiting to pressure washed, buffed and admired.

It looks clean. Calming. A world away from its current incarnation. If these print-outs were scratch and sniff, they'd smell like polished wood floors, books and open windows.

Paco and Javier are antsy to get the overhaul completed. On their end, everything else is handled. The store's website is ready; the book list is finalized. They expect roughly 2400 hand-selected titles, with 80 percent fiction and 20 percent poetry. Slightly less than a quarter of their inventory will be in Spanish. The employees are hired and already handling the day-to-day interactions with code officers and city workers. Once the remaining inspectors sign off, demolition begins, and if things go as scheduled, The Wild Detectives will open to the public by late September, early October, ready to prove whether Dallas' lack of independent bookstores is a fault of supply or demand.


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13 comments
janerleblanc
janerleblanc

Exciting!! Any plans on some nonfiction stock?

Hulon Pate
Hulon Pate

how ever I do plan on making my way to Oak Cliff to the Red Wing Store soon.

Max Ward
Max Ward

I guess the poor Chinese who assembled your e-reader and then jumped out a window don't count as a natural resource...

CrackerDaddy
CrackerDaddy

Nicely done gentlemen....nicely done.  I look forward to patronizing this establishment.

R0bshearer
R0bshearer

FYI - it's not exactly surrounded by residential. 312 West 8th street, immediately next door, has been converted into an office and houses a marketing/design firm and a commercial real estate broker. And there are several other commercial conversions on the block. 

emilyaberg.2
emilyaberg.2

What I loved most about this story: "Slightly less than a quarter of their inventory will be in Spanish." 

MouthyGirl
MouthyGirl

I cannot wait to patronize this pending establishment. I love used bookstores, true enough, but nothing beats the charm of a bookstore with personality, and loving ownership. Yay!

Hulon Pate
Hulon Pate

You know books now come on PDF. and save natural resources.

Jamie_L.
Jamie_L.

@R0bshearer True, but even that business looks like a home from the exterior, and most of the neighbors are just that, neighbors who live in these classic residences from the 1940s. It doesn't feel businessy until you step forward several houses. When I parked to visit, I had to triple-check my address.

Jamie_L.
Jamie_L.

@MouthyGirl Me too! They'll also have some used material, but want to focus on specific recommended titles. Keeping them in stock will likely require purchasing new.

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