The Source Book Store does not show its true colors to passers-by on the sidewalk. A display of banned books – for Banned Book Month – sits in the window below the slowly peeling sticker naming the shop, with rows of DVDs hidden just behind it. To find out what the store really has to offer, you have to go inside.
Not that the Source would give away its secrets so easily. Towering bookshelves are sometimes filled with multiple rows of books of all types and ages, forming a mini maze that can make customers forget all about the basement, which is filled with even more books, records and music. magazines.
Carter Brown made The Source his domain in the two years since he took possession, building bookshelves, scattering Rubick’s Cubes across his desk, and setting up a recording booth in the basement. It’s not where he thought he’d be at 25, but after touring and recording with his band, trying out college and working in retail, there’s nowhere else he’d rather be.
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“Now I can say it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and I wouldn’t lie, really. But it’s not something I thought about doing, because you couldn’t open this bookstore today,” Brown said. “I mean, that would just be impossible.”
The Source Book Store has been in business since 1939, when George Pekios collected enough material to begin selling from his living room in East Moline. Over the past 80 years, the store has changed location and hands, but never outside the family until Dan Pekios sold it to Brown.
A painted portrait of George Pekios occupies part of the only wall space not covered by shelves. It hangs above a record player and behind Brown’s desk – customers entering can see Pekios’ face before noticing Brown, as it is obscured by the counter and the tiny shelves on it.
Although Brown had no hands-on experience running a bookstore before signing a contract with Dan Pekios, he said he never felt overwhelmed by what he was doing. Sometimes the fact that he owns the Source is surreal, as he’s been going there to try and redeem the science fiction section since he was 16, but his experience working at the Book Rack and the Source before becoming an owner gave him confidence.
“I know the books,” Brown said.
His favorite section of the store is the sci-fi shelves – he said that’s the only genre he really looks for when buying books for the store. People call him every day to sell collections from estate sales and defaulted storage units, and although he already has no room to store books, he can’t pass up the opportunity to find something good.
People don’t come to The Source looking for the latest bestseller, that’s what stores like The Book Rack are for. Brown will recommend the Book Rack to people looking to buy or sell James Patterson and Nora Roberts, and direct those looking for a great cup of coffee with their book to The Brewed Book.
The Source stores anything and everything – the rare, the ridiculous and sometimes the outrageous. Brown has just sold a book on obscure fishing practices online, and customers will be calling to look for specific editions from Hustler and Playboy. A library in the basement is dedicated to extra Bibles, and the most collectible items can be found near the front of the store.
Barcodes don’t matter, because the Source doesn’t have an inventory of books beyond the roughly 2,000 titles for sale online. The collection of approximately 7,000 DVDs, however, has inventory, so when a customer came to pick up a copy of “Dogma,” Brown was able to tell him he had one in stock, but another employee had it. borrowed and would hold it for him.
Brown estimates that the Source has more than a quarter of a million items tucked away in its nooks and crannies. Pushed into overflowing shelves and patiently waiting in boxes for more space to open, books, magazines, manuals, DVDs, CDs, records and more can be found in the shop and its under -floor.
Unlike Brown, Alex Briles had no idea the Source existed until he came to work there. The pair worked together at The Book Rack until Brown purchased the Source and brought Briles with him.
Briles isn’t alone in his former ignorance of the store – the employee says customers who’ve lived in the Quad-Cities for decades will come and say they had no idea The Source existed. until they pass her on the street.
Others travel hours to Davenport to browse the shelves. Last weekend was packed, Briles said, as people stopped in between acts at the Mississippi Valley Blues Society Blues Fest.
“A lot of people can’t find stores like this…” Briles said. “There are things that when people come in they don’t expect to come across.”
Brown knows there are items in the store that have been around for as long as he’s been alive, or longer. He digs more space where he can – finding corners and crawl spaces to fit more shelves.
He’d like to one day move the Source to a larger space, ideally at least 10,000 feet, where the shelves can expand and people can browse the entire stock, but he knows that’s a long way off. However, he knows that people will follow the Source wherever it goes.
“I don’t want to be the guy who bought the bookstore that’s been open for 80 years and then destroyed it. But luckily 50% of what I paid was for inventory and 50% of what I paid was the reputation,” Brown said. “It’s important to have the reputation that Dan has as a bookseller, because people come here who have been here their whole lives.
“Luckily everyone was really cool about me taking over; they’re just happy someone kept it open.”
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