“What happened? I wanted a sandwich.”
Even better: “Finally! Beeville has a bookstore.”
SHE’S BEEN in the book-selling business for 14 years. But, until she moved downtown March 6, the store was across the street from Sutherlands.
“My business has really picked up since the move,” she says.
Location, location, location.
She was the teacher for the deaf at Beeville Independent School District for 17 years but, after retiring, got into peddling books because of J.C. Penney.
“I had the catalog franchise,” she says, “but to get it, J.C. Penney required that I have another business. My husband warned me that I had so many books in our home that it was going to collapse into the earth.” Selling books just seemed logical.
“But, the bookstore was in a separate room, so a lot of customers didn’t know about it.”
That’s not a problem in the downtown store. In addition to books on shelves lining every wall, the floors are littered with books in boxes, books in plastic containers, books in plastic bags.
“We lost a lot of shelving when we moved. You can’t trust people you don’t know to help you move,” she laments.
“But, I know where everything is,” she says—all 18,000 volumes.
What types of books?
“Everything but college textbooks,” she says. “We have Christian, mysteries, science fiction, westerns, biographies, self-help, arts and crafts, cookbooks, popular authors and Harlequin romances. I sell them for 10 cents apiece.”
Which proves there’s still such a thing as a dime novel.
THE KEY to her book-selling success is her credit system. Customers get credit for bringing in their castaway books. Eventually, their credit allows them to buy books at half-price, both hardback and soft cover.
The books strewn on the floor and stacked on the shelves, then, are a kind of collective representation of the literary taste of the community.
Her regular customers number more than 100, she says. To her surprise, youngsters often frequent the store. “That is gratifying,” she says.
Monday afternoon, her customers got in touch by regular phone and cellphone. Others walked in the front door. They could have come in the back door, for Rauch and her husband have installed one there.
“You got any more westerns?” a tall man asked. “And, I like the bigger print. It’s so durned hot in the middle of the afternoon I have more time to read.”
Rauch is an avid reader, but not in the middle of the afternoon.
“I like a good mystery, or a good psychological thriller.”
Her taste in literature differs from the Beeville norm, at least when it comes to her own customers.
“Lots of men down here like westerns,” she says. “Women want to read ‘love-inspired’ Christian romances.”
HER USE of the geographic phrase “down here” stems from her being born and raised in Wichita, Kansas.
“At one time, I thought about studying journalism,” she says.
But a distressed little girl in a rainstorm outside a center for abused children altered her plans.
“The poor little thing was three years old, lying in a pool of water and crying.”
It turned out the child was deaf, but her parents would not admit it. “They were in denial,” Rauch says.
She saw her life’s work ahead of her. “Journalism went out the window.”
She earned a master’s degree in deaf education from Texas Woman’s University.
HER APPRECIATION for literature is not limited to reading.
“I was bedridden for some months, and all I had was my laptop.” Rauch moves around the store with the help of a three-wheel walker. “I’ve had cerebral palsy all my life,” she explains.
So she wrote a children’s book.
“It stars a miniature horse named Dodger,” she relates. “All he wants in the whole world is to be a real horse. He finds he can’t dance on his back legs, so he can’t be a Lipizzan. He tries to be a rodeo star, but all the other animals beat up on him.”
She doesn’t reveal any more of the plot and nervously admits it has never been in print.
“I haven’t had the nerve to publish it.”
IN THE northeast part of the store, where former Hensley customers who were quick enough could be served lunch at a table in a kind of bay window bordered by the entrance, Rauch has established a children’s corner.
It’s full of books stored in smaller shelves so little ones can more easily reach them.
There are occasional spaces between the books, as if reserved for a volume about a miniature horse named Dodger.
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.