Second-hand bookstore closes in Waverly

July 11, 1994|By JACQUES KELLY

Waverly's Second Story Books has closed its doors and offered its last markdown.

For the first time in more than 40 years, there is no second-hand print mart at the corner of 33rd Street and Greenmount Avenue.

In that time, thousands of customers browsed through shelves full of Agatha Christie novels, James Beard cook books and Penguin Press art volumes. Second Story had been on the street since 1981, but three earlier proprietors had been in the book business here since the 1950s.

The shop was one of the city's hangouts for college students, serious book collectors and zealous accumulators of the printed word.

Owner Allan Stypeck, whose used-book-and-records operation still continues in Washington and suburban Maryland locations, decided to leave Baltimore this spring. Each month more of the stock went on sale until the final boxes got carted away earlier this month.

Mr. Stypeck says he made the decision to close the store in part because of deteriorating conditions in the busy crossroads of Greenmount and 33rd. He cites loitering outside his shop and a public perception that the area is crime-infested.

"We missed the Oriole crowds at [Memorial] stadium, too," Mr. Stypeck says. The move will allow the owner to concentrate his business in Washington.

Second Story moved into what had been the entrance and lobby of the 1921 Boulevard Theatre several years ago. Before then, the shop was situated several doors north. Its ownership lineage stretched back to the old Remington Books chain, a local business that had a shop on the east side of Greenmount Avenue facing the Boulevard movie house.

Remington closed this shop in the 1950s and after a brief vacancy, the spot was taken over by used-book dealer Philip Lazzaroni in 1966.

Mr. Lazzaroni made the shop into a used-book store, its walls filled with curious and odd volumes. He also introduced a custom of leaving a rack of books out on the street for buyers to pick up at 50 cents apiece on the honor system.

"I was always amazed to see how honest people were," Mr. Lazzaroni said some years before his death.

In 1968, Mr. Lazzaroni sold the business to John Gach, who built the business into one of Baltimore's most thriving and serious dens of musty paper and brittle bindings. Dealers, book collectors and librarians patronized the shop. It was also heavily patronized by Johns Hopkins University students and faculty members.

One of Mr. Gach's managers, the late Allen Atwood, had an interest in the books of Evening Sun columnist H.L. Mencken. He gathered many copies of the Sage of Baltimore's books and issued two catalogs of out-of-print books. Mr. Atwood later struck out on his own. Allen's Book Shop, which bears his name, remains in the 400 block of E. 31st St.

"I can see that the stadium was a stabilizing influence in Waverly," says Mr. Gach, who sold his operation to Second Story 1981. "It

brought people into the neighborhood who would not have been there. Now, more than ever, I can see that role."

He credits several forces with helping him enlarge his business.

"It is sad to look back now, but the 1960s were a time of block-busting and real estate changeover. People were moving and selling their books off. I'd get two or three calls a day, often for large collections of good books.

"It was a time too when some local Catholic seminaries were closing and I got to buy entire libraries. I bought a lot and sold it off cheaply. I am still amazed at the number of people who come up and tell me about the book they bought in 1971," Mr. Gach says.

In 1970, his shop moved to larger quarters across the street in a former tuxedo rental shop at Greenmount and Venable avenues. It remained there until its move into the old Boulevard Theatre property about five years ago. The name Second Story Books went up on the cinema's large semicircular marquee that overhangs Greenmount Avenue.

It was about this time that a number of Asian restaurants also began to open or expand at 33rd and Greenmount.

Whit Drain, an owner of Tiber Books on 25th Street in what has become Baltimore's Book Block, looks back on that era.

"It became kind of a thing to do. People would have a full belly after a meal at Uncle Lee's and maybe have $20 left. They'd go in the store and walk out with an armful of books," he says.

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