People Issue

Javier Garcia del Moral and Paco Vique Built the Best Book Club Ever, and You're Invited

In this week's Dallas Observer we profile 20 of the metro area's most interesting characters, with new portraits of each from local photographer Can Turkyilmaz. See the entire Dallas Observer People Issue here.

Before Paco Vique and Javier Garcia del Moral settle into yet another interview about The Wild Detectives, Vique wants to make something clear: They've employed other people, with experience in books and retailing, to manage their combination bookstore, coffee shop and wine and beer bar, which they opened this year in a converted house in Oak Cliff.

The pair of Spaniards have received a ton of press since opening The Wild Detectives in the Bishop Arts District, but they don't want anyone -- their coworkers at the Madrid-based construction firm that employs them in Dallas, for instance -- to think they're being distracted from their day jobs. They enjoy being at The Wild Detectives. They're its creators and set its guidelines, but they aren't there every day.

No one could be that lucky.Imagine a place where like-minded people gather, drink, nosh and share convivial conversation about modern culture. You see it, right? Now take away the flat-screens, sports jerseys, bad beer, chicken wings and Hooters girls and replace them with books by international authors, local brews, Spanish wines, coffee, cheese plates and pastries.

The idea that someone would open an independent print bookstore in 2014 draws attention -- how quaint -- but it misses the heart of what the pair have built.

"Books are really what we love, but along with music and movies and beer and hanging out," del Moral says. "It's not just a bookstore."

Adding drinks makes business sense in the Kindle age, though the book side of the business is doing surprisingly well, Vique says. Not that making money is the (main) objective. The books, drinks and food they stock are carefully selected not with an eye toward turning an easy dollar. They sell what they enjoy and take pleasure in sharing with others.

Turns out there's some serious thought behind building a sort of ground-level tree house for culture lovers. People work and make money and do all that's necessary for staying alive, del Moral says. But in doing that we easily lose sight of things like sharing great books, a glass of beer and good company -- things that are hard to price, but that make staying alive worthwhile.

Del Moral knows how he sounds, and says he doesn't want to become "grandiloquent" as they talk about valuing things for their own sakes, but in the backyard of this small wood-framed house, sitting on a picnic bench under shade trees on a summer Friday evening, the words flow easily, all sententiousness drowned in a glass of beer. Inside, customers leaf through books or share tables, chatting as they soak in the scent of freshly printed paper mingled with the aromas of beer and coffee.

They can't be here all the time, unfortunately. On Monday, most will be back at work, like Vique and del Moral, whose real job titles, if you think about the words carefully, seem both odd and strangely appropriate for the creators of such a place. They're both civil engineer

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams