Paco Vique and Javier Garcia del Moral first met on a civil engineering project in Ireland. (Don’t worry. It gets better.) During some Guinness-fueled bonding over books, music and film, they came to realize their common interests amounted to something bigger: a shared dream to open an independent bookstore they would eventually realize with The Wild Detectives.
Both originally from Spain (del Moral from Logroño, La Rioja, and Vique from Almería, Andalucía), the two found themselves once again working in the same city here in Dallas in 2012. They soon began hanging out at the Texas Theatre, where they met like-minded cinephiles and eventually launched a monthly Spanish film series known as Pata Negra.
It’s the kind of place where you can order a latte or a lager, grab a page-turner and chat for hours about bands with the person next to you.
Still hungry for a more permanent culture fix — and missing the idiosyncratic shops packed with sleek hardcovers and fresh paperbacks in their native Spain — del Moral and Vique worked up the nerve to strike out on their own as independent bookstore proprietors. The part-time departure from designing roads and bridges has been as much a winding journey as a labor of love.
Although the timing (post-economic slump) and location (a quaint 1940s home in Oak Cliff) presented themselves as near perfect, it took more than a year to quell some lingering hiccups in the form of city regulations and ordinances. In spite of all that, Wild Detectives opened its gleaming glass porch doors early last month.
With just 2,000 titles inside, the store focuses primarily on fiction but has plenty of room for graphic novels and poetry. It’s the kind of place where you can order a latte or a lager, grab a page-turner, and end up chatting for hours about bands like Wilco (one of Vique’s favorites) or Sonic Youth with the person next to you.
The coffee shop-bar-bookstore format lends itself to all kinds of conversation triggers. But if you do get around to doing any reading, there’s a mix of old (Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow) and new (Bark: Stories by Lorrie Moore) to be pulled from nearby tables and shelves. You’ll also find Philip Larkin, George Saunders and, of course, Robert Bolaño — author of The Savage Detectives, which inspired the shop’s moniker.
Still, the idea isn’t to make a killing selling books. (They’re not quitting their day jobs anytime soon.) Rather, the goal is to simply be self sustainable and, with that, to create a shared community space where people can present projects and ideas they’re wrestling with or working on and see how the public responds.
Just this past weekend, the shop hosted a mini photo shoot conceived by Dallas-based creative agency and production company Resident Alien. The idea was to take thought-provoking portraits of readers balancing books on their heads. The results? Likely a poignant look at the many faces of literary obsession.
And unlike any of the dusty (dare we say, crusty) used bookstores out there, you’ll walk out of Wild Detectives with a stack of spotless tomes. No more begrudgingly inherited broken spines or dog-eared pages. That kind of handiwork is left to you.
The Wild Detectives is throwing an opening party on Saturday, April 12, featuring paella and live music in the backyard.