San Antonio Books
7:08 am
Thu January 17, 2013

Cheever Books: The Rare And Unique

Extended interview with John Peace, manager at Cheever Books.

Where else can you find six hardback volumes of Moliere's plays?

Cheever Books has it, along with thousands of other titles lining the shelves of the old house on Broadway. Books in the hallways, books in each corner of every room, and books sitting neatly stacked on the floor.

CeCe Cheever opened the store in 1986, and the store's success can be attributed to her vision and continued guidance. CeCe was inspired by her time working at Half-Price Books, and like the chain, Cheever Books buys books from customers who bring them in; but store manager John Peace won't just buy anything.

One of a kind

If a book doesn't meet the store's standard for uniqueness and character, a customer may walk out with the same books they walked in with.

Lou Diaz, who said he regularly comes to Cheever, looks through the section on the history of San Antonio.
Credit Chris Eudaily / TPR

"We look for books that are unusual and interesting; not unusual in the sense that it's about circus freaks or something, but things that you don't see normally. We don't have a lot of self-help books," laughed Peace.

When you've been in business for as long as Cheever Books, you can afford to be picky, and Peace knows that the hand-picked selection is what keeps people coming back.

"I don't think we have a typical customer," said Peace about the range of his everyday clientele that stops in to browse the variety of unique offerings at the store.

Cheever Books gets everyone from topical browsers like Lou Diaz, who was looking for books on the history of San Antonio, to collectors looking for one-of-a-kind books like hardback first editions.

Big money, no whammies

Peace said that over the years the store generally breaks even, with daily sales keeping steady and the occasional high-dollar item(s) helping to make up for any slow periods.

"But we get by," said Peace, "and it's mainly because we will every once in a while sell something expensive, like in the thousands of dollars and that'll help us make it through."

Books are stacked everywhere at Cheever Books and you sometimes have to twist and turn to get a better view.
Credit Chris Eudaily / TPR

Peace said that at the moment, the highest priced item in the store is $7,000 or $10,000.

Standing the test of time

Seemingly unaffected by e-books and some of the other challenges of the book industry, Cheever's unique one-of-a-kind collection is what keeps this store relevant in the ever-changing world around it.

There is something reassuring about this place; the store seems to have a calming effect on customers walking into the palace of literature.

As people walk in they are almost immediately absorbed into the shelves and piles of history around them; blending so seamlessly with the stacks that you could miss someone sitting on the floor digging through the bottom shelf and easily stumble over a knee.

Cheever Books is coming up on 30 years in business, and with its ability to keep a loyal base of customers coming back, and the hard-to-find collectibles that only they can get, another 30 years isn't out of the question.

Peace, however, isn't sure if he can go that long.

"I went from being 30 years old to 60 years old at this store, so if I can make it another 10 years I'll be happy."

On-air preview with John Peace, manager of Cheever Books.

  • Cheever Books does not have a website of their own, but you can find them in-person at 3613 Broadway St.,  San Antonio, TX 78209