For nearly seven decades, the house at 314 W. Eighth St. in Oak Cliff was merely a domicile. Nothing more than a place to keep your stuff dry when it rains and plug in your refrigerator.
That was before Javier García del Moral and Paco Vique owned it. Four years ago, the duo broke down walls inside the former three-bedroom, one-bath, 836-square-foot house and in the process created the coolest bookstore/bar/cafe. Free from the duties that come with domesticity, this house became a home for Dallas’ long-ignored literary community.
“The past four years showed us that a project like this is feasible, not just a pipe dream, but it also proved that it requires a lot of hard work, planning, organization and tough decisions, not just well intentions and passion,” Moral says.
That passion will be on display once again when The Wild Detectives hosts its annual birthday bash Saturday, and the whole city’s invited. This year's anniversary party has a bill jam-packed with local acts like M3CCA, Ronnie Heart, Sam Lao and Black Taffy. It will be a day of good music, tasty drinks and interesting people, all good ingredients for a decent time.
“This anniversary, like the other three before it, means that we live in a city whose people support culture and that they're not afraid to experience new things and engage in new conversations,” Moral says. “And yes, it is also a way to celebrate the amount of talent this city has by bringing some of our favorite bands to play in our backyard. Based on our experience in previous Wild Beats birthday celebrations, it’s always been an awesome day.”
Last spring, the team behind The Wild Detectives began to tweak its formula. Moral says the store is moving away from stocking new book releases, instead implementing a system of trusted locals acting as curators. Now every book on the shelves has come as a personal recommendation from one of these curators.
The team has also become more selective in the kinds of events it puts on, thanks in part to former Observer arts editor Lauren Smart. Community discussions have turned the bookstore into somewhat of a town hall. Community events have looked to break down everything from Dallas’ 2018 Cultural Plan to gentrification.
“All these changes have the same goal — curate, curate and curate — so that we gain the trust of our customers when it comes to discover new things: a book, a band, a writer, a performance or a discussion,” Moral says. “And it’s been the same goal since day one.”
Without community, Moral says, The Wild Detectives wouldn’t survive. People questioned both Vique and Moral when they first announced they were opening a bookstore in Oak Cliff. While curiosity helped to fuel the store’s initially anomalous popularity, the dedication of everyone involved with the store's success has kept Dallasites coming back.
When it comes to the future of The Wild Detectives, Moral is keeping an open mind.
“Honestly, we have no idea," Moral says. "We'll keep relying on our instinct, experiences and friends to implement the things that make more sense to us. We can’t say we’ll always make good decisions, but we can say we'll make those decisions with our heart in them."
The party is from 2 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday at The Wild Detectives, 314 W. Eighth St. Tickets are $15.