An important facet of Durango culture is the origination of its products and commitment to purchasing locally. While the town is a balanced mix of both independent and corporate-owned businesses, residents and visitors are able to fully immerse themselves in the culture of Durango through their experiences at locally-owned stores. Many of these shops are family-owned and have been in operation for decades. One such store is Southwest Book Trader, located at 175 East 5th Street.
As the owner of the oldest bookstore in the four corners area, George Hassan has spent over 30 years dedicating his time to the collection of used books and antiques. Anyone who’s ever set foot inside the store has seen the incredible – yet slightly claustrophobia-inducing – vast collection of literature crammed into a single tiny house. The four rooms of the house create an astounding maze of stacks upon stacks of books that reach beyond the borders of the shelves and expand all the way toward the ceiling. Almost all of the books are acquired from local residents as donations and sold at a fraction of their original cost, but unlike many other used bookstores, Southwest Book Trader has plenty of rare, out of print, and first-edition books on practically any subject. The store is positively a book-lover’s dream come true.
However, the shop does not simply stop at books. Southwest Book Trader also sells a variety of antique and vintage items; among which are pottery, cameras, sculptures, tools, artwork, fishing gear and interesting jewelry, much of which is made by George’s wife using upcycled materials.
Upon first-glance the hectic store seems nearly impossible to navigate, yet George has an almost supernatural ability to locate any item or book title a customer might request. And aside from his expansive mental catalogue, George is also profoundly well-read and has an interesting story or insider’s tip to share with just about every single person that walks through the door.
Although the shop looks like a perpetually-impending avalanche of books – or “cattawamped,” as George would say – it is an essential marker of Durango heritage. If you’re looking to expand your home library, want to have an interesting chat with the owner, or simply have time to kill, Southwest Book Trader is one of the most quintessentially “Durango” stores in town and is a must-see for any book-lover or visitor.