For several months I had wondered about that dirty looking old building with a gun shop on one side and what appeared to be old books on the other on the near west side of Cleveland. The gun shop window had been boarded up for security, while the other displayed stacks of used books.
The gun shop appeared to have regular hours of business, but the book store seemed to never be open. Until, that is, one Friday morning at 10:00 A.M. when I happened to drive by.
There was a old Chevy parked out front, and the door to the store was open, so I pulled over and went in to look around. The store consisted of one large room, with a small glass display case in the back with a glass counter top that served as the main work area for the owner, whose name was Eric.
Eric usually had an unlit cigar in his mouth or resting on the ash tray while he conducted business, and he was articulate and appeared to be well educated. Over the next 8 years, I never did learn anything more about him. Some customers told me he was an Attorney, others told me he was independently wealthy, but I never knew for sure. But he conducted business in such a way that he learned everything there was to know about the customers as though he was a secret agent for some foreign government.
The place was fairly clean, and during winter it was not heated above about 40 degrees. Eric was always well dressed, would work in his overcoat and seemed cheerful each time I met him.
The store had no name, and was run more like a country club than a store. Eric determined over the next few weeks that my interests were primarily colonial American history, and religious history, and whenever I came into the store he would have a stack of books on the counter waiting for me. Some books were one year old, while others were up to four hundred years old. I never knew what to expect.
A routine was established where I would stop on my way home from work each Thursday evening around 5:30 and he would be there with a special stack for me to peruse and select what I wanted. Some weeks I would purchase one or two, while other weeks I would purchase a dozen or more. One week he had a large box of romance novels for my wife, because I had casually mentioned her interest in that genre the previous week.
He was open every Thursday afternoon, Friday morning and Saturday morning only. But, he never advertised.
Over the next 8 years I met the same customers from time to time as I collected books of interest, some of which cost a dollar and others up to three hundred, depending upon the value. When I moved from the area, I faced the difficult task of moving over three thousand books.
Having been absent for about ten years, I returned to the area for a visit, and made a point of driving past the old bookstore, and was disappointed to see it was vacant.
I wonder what happened to Eric?