There’s a little piece of heaven in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I’d been teased about this place before, but nothing my local guide could say would prepare me for the wonderland that is Gardner’s Used Books. Of course, it also couldn’t prepare me for their outlet behind the store, but I’ll get to there in a minute.
Gardner’s is no mere bookstore. From the very beginning, when I saw the tables upon tables of discounted books outside (a quarter apiece or five for $1.00), I knew I was in for a treat. Stepping inside, the customer is greeted with full sized figurines of everything from Red Hulk to Boba Fett. I was not allowed to linger here, but rather dragged to the farthest left shelves for a starting point. It took us a good minute to get there. The bulk of the store is based in what is likely one storefront, but there are two others to either side, plus a back room full of children’s books and a cafe (which was sadly closed the day I was there). The place takes up a standard sized strip mall. And these rooms are filled to the brim.
Bookshelves form tight aisles and are stacked floor to ceiling, sometimes a touch haphazardly, but such is bound to happen when you’ve got so much inventory (no, I’m not sorry for the book pun). The side room to the right of the entrance, however, is not filled with books, per se, but rather book-adjacent items such as audiobooks, manga, comic books, and other media in equal abundance. There are also cases of memorabilia of all sorts of geekiness near the register (including items such as beautiful antique books and DC bombshell wallets), and shelves with new books featuring local writers. To say they’ve got a lot of merchandise might be an understatement.
The first shelf I allowed myself to actually peruse clued me into one of the best parts of this store: it’s not overpriced. Indeed, I picked up a near perfect Modern Library edition of the Poems and Plays of Robert Browning (a personal favorite) for only six dollars. Later, browsing the antique shelf, there were two editions of an Italian dictionary from the turn of the century for only twenty dollars. I probably spent something like twenty bucks total and walked out with an armful of books. Then, as I’d spent nearly 4 hours in the main store, we only had about an hour to hit the outlet. Which was probably a good thing, considering how much damage I did in that time.
The outlet is in a separate building behind Gardner’s and has all sorts of silly flags to get you inside. There’s also a Hulk.
If the store, in all of its nerdy goodness, wasn’t quite enough for you, this place cuts it. In the front room, you can be a goof like my guide and I and pose with Han, Yoda, R2-D2, or (to cross the streams) a Star Trek Captain’s chair replica.
As a bonus, there are longboxes upon longboxes of comics for cheap. I didn’t have near enough time to investigate, but it looked as though there was some decent stuff- I’m talking major heroes, not just offshoot teams, and all of it for less than cover price.
Even better for someone like me, there were three BIG rooms filled in every possible way with books, CDs, records, and more. I’m not exaggerating when I call these rooms big, either. The place seemed about 2/3 warehouse in contrast to a storefront. You had the giant bookshelves you found in the main store- but also tables just piled high with treasures. I was even able to find several antique books among the excess inventory.
Then it gets even better. The books? All $1 unless it’s a “special author,” which is just likely to be your major authors and bestsellers. These premium books will cost you a bank-breaking $2. Bank-breaking, of course, in the sense that you’ll need to rent a truck given enough time. It might be needless to say for those who have ever experienced book sales with a bibliophile, but my guide and I were a little worried about having enough room in the car. Thank goodness for his shocks I didn’t get to keep looking.
If you would like to learn more about Gardner’s, you can check out their website or head to their store at 4421 S. Mingo Rd, Tulsa, Oklahoma. They’re open Monday through Friday 10am-8pm, Saturday 9am-8pm, and Sunday 12pm-6pm.