Antiquarian Book Mart – San Antonio, Texas
I wasn’t expecting to find a connection to my Appalachian home state in San Antonio, Texas, but that’s exactly what I found in Bob Kellel, proprietor of Antiquarian Book Mart. When he spotted my West Virginia alma mater’s t-shirt, he informed me that he lived for a time in a small town in the southern part of the state called Williamson.
“I grew up about twenty minutes from there,” I said, most likely beaming at discovering a little connection to home so far away.
Well, actually I’d been beaming from the moment I stepped into the spacious shop, with room upon room of older, collectible books at excellent prices.
“I have a shirt from West Virginia that I almost wore today. That would’ve really blown your mind,” he said – and it probably would’ve.
While marveling at the vast and impressive inventory, I couldn’t help wondering how someone with ties to a tiny West Virginia town found his way to San Antonio.
“We lived in seven different places growing up,” Bob told me, his father’s military career and educational pursuits taking them around the country. “My father was quite the scholar, with a 20,000 volume library. I remember the movers always showing up in good spirits until they saw that library.”
Bob’s father, Frank Kellel, Jr., started the shop in 1971 with that vast personal library as his inventory. His 23-year career in the military provided ample opportunities to amass an impressive collection of rare books.
Frank balanced working in the shop with his military career once the family settled in San Antonio, then ran the shop full-time after retiring from the Army in 1975. Bob took over the shop in 2004.
The Antiquarian’s quant, mazelike layout of well-organized genre rooms and sections is heaven for the bookstore explorer who likes to get purposefully lost among the shelves, and there’s plenty of seating around to pick up an old book and dive right in. The quirky décor of old toys, collectibles, and posters adds to the eclectic charm of this not-so-hidden gem.
With a story as unique as those in the books it sells, and a proprietor open to a friendly chat with customers, make sure the Antiquarian Book Mart is on your list if you find yourself in San Antonio.
Antiquarian Book Mart is located at 3127 Broadway Street, San Antonio, Texas. The shop is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.