Tripping Taylor: An Iconic Boise Used Bookstore Will Close its Doors 

click to enlarge Trip Taylor Bookseller will close its doors at the end of March.

Harrison Berry

Trip Taylor Bookseller will close its doors at the end of March.

Trip Taylor put on a Dizzie Gilespie record and perched on a stool in the middle of one of the aisles of the downtown used bookstore that bears his name. He was in his element. For the last 13 years, Trip Taylor Bookseller has been the pot o' gold at the end of the reading rainbow in Boise—a two-story maze of floor-to-ceiling shelves dead-ending in nooks and aisles blocked by towers of unfiled books.

It's a bibliophile's paradise, but when Boise Weekly talked to Taylor in early March, he said he had passed through the grieving phase: At the end of the month, he will lock up his book shop for the last time, donating many of the books there to the Boise Public Library and moving the rest into storage to be sold online. Here's what he had to say about the economic and personal pressures affecting the book business, what Boise stands to lose and how downtown has changed since he hung out his shingle.

What will you do after Trip Taylor Bookseller closes?
I’m going to continue to feed the one beast of being online. Beyond that I just don’t know. I’ve been doing this for 22 years. I was in my 30s when I started; I’m in my 50s now, so there’s no going back to a previous life. To some extent, I’m stepping into the unknown.

You’ve been called “outspoken.”
There are some negative reviews. What did somebody call me, "slightly cantankerous?" Somebody else called me grumpy. Somebody called me “Mr. Grumpy.” I think that depends on when you come in. But I don’t think online reviews make a great deal of difference in this business because there’s only a few bookstores, and if people are serious they’re going to go to every one, and they’re not going to be too concerned about my personality. Anybody who is is not a serious book person and they’re not going to amount to much anyway.

You’re famous for having books by the Beats right up by the cash register.
We tend to talk about them, and because there’s a security issue I guess. Looking at it now, [the section] seems degraded to me. We don’t have very much.

What happened to your poodle, Apollo?
Apollo's been in heaven for several years now. All I have is a couple of paintings of him left. For years, people have come back because they remember him so well, and it hasn’t been the same since he was gone. He helped me get through the day. You couldn’t just bring any dog in here because he was so calm and collected, and understood he shouldn’t go outside and so forth, and not all dogs would.

You get everywhere by bike. Do you own a car?
I do own a car, but it’s actually not running. It amounts to not owning a car. At one point I was the guy with the poodle in the back, going all over the place with Apollo. It’s not pleasant to breathe poison while you’re bicycling, but we all do this every day. We really need to do something else, don’t we?

How has the city changed since you’ve been in this location?
Oh, well, when we were first here and for the first few years we had the financial crisis. There were empty spots in this building for some time. That has totally changed. Yeah, imagine how much things have changed since 2000—has Boise ever changed as much in that time in any other period?

What are the larger factors affecting bookstores?
We all know what it is: We’re an online dealer, so we feed that out one door, and in the other door it’s coming in and destroying places like this. Of course the bookstores in Nampa—at one point there were three pretty substantial ones, and the last of them is gone. This is happening everywhere. It’s simply the price of real estate, the pressure of it all.

Why are you closing?
It’s a combination of factors. Personal exhaustion. Overall economic factors, expense and a number of other things as well. I actually did try to keep it going in one form or another, perhaps by partnering with somebody or selling it. I had many people who were interested, but nothing got very far. Finally I felt like I didn’t have much choice, and in fact I was given no choice.

Why was it so hard to find someone to help you keep the store open?
There are people who are interested, but not when you become serious about it. I was very open with people telling them that it is very difficult and that if I were playing a financial adviser role, I couldn’t really advise them to do it.

What makes someone a good used bookstore owner?
You have to have a deep passion for books, to begin with. Most booksellers are lacking in some of the retail skills that would be best, because it is a combination of business and passion. A deep knowledge of everything and knowing especially what a really good book is. If you fill your store with bad books you’re not going to last very long.

click to enlarge - Trip Taylor will close his downtown bookstore at the end of March 2018. -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Trip Taylor will close his downtown bookstore at the end of March 2018.

There are several other bookstores in Boise—where do you fit in among them?
I’m not sure they’re going to fit in too much more, but right now Boise has a wonderful situation when it comes to bookstores, and not too many people realize it, because you have Rediscovered Books, which, notwithstanding their name, sells new books, you have Rainbow Books, a nice store that has been there for a long time, but it’s mainly a paperback exchange, and then you have us. That is a spectrum—a chain of bookstores—and that chain is going to be broken, and that is a real loss for Boise.

Who are your customers?
I think that they are, if you look at them socially, they tend to be more liberal, but there’s no surprise about that. The liberal-type people are the readers. A lot of college students, a lot of young people, some older people. Many have told me about how sad they are about this place closing.

What are some of the attributes of a book you want to stock?
There are many things. It’s a book of lasting value, as much as anything else. It tends to be what is great now and will be great 20 years from now. That’s the main criterion. That’s one of the great things about this business, is you don’t have to deal with this new stuff and the whole publicity machine. It’s very nice to be surrounded by quality and not have to worry about the latest trend. It’s hard to conceive of people not reading Shakespeare forever. There’s also the books the younger readers want: the Beats, Camus or Calvino or Burroughs and Bukowski.

Can you think of a time when someone brought in a collection of books that really excited you?
It happens all the time. I’m excited by so much stuff that comes in, but for the Beats, someone came in with a whole bunch of signed things and a Kerouac broadside [see examples of broadsides here] and some first editions of some things you never see. I get excited by all kinds of books now, much more so than when I first got into the business. That’s what happens. You’re broadened in that sense and you have this larger sense of quality. Somebody brought me a first edition of The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West, which is very uncommon. It was just a book that looked sort of fragile, and there was so much history in it, and that really excited me a lot.

What’s left?
There’s the question of the larger meaning of it all. We’re in a rather dark time because of this kind of cultural assault that we’re under now. I do feel as if I’m behind the barricades protecting something that is under assault. If you look at what’s in [my shop], and if you go upstairs and look at the American history and what that represents—here, you can definitely find something more direct and you can feel a sense of authenticity that maybe you don’t find in other places. It’s one of the things that’s kept me going. In some way, I am part of this cultural fight, and that’s also a loss for Boise. But it’s not just this place—that’s the important thing to keep in mind.

Correction: A previous version of this story referred to Taylor's dog, Paulo. The dog's actual name was Apollo. We regret the error.
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