Yale Fyler is a quiet and mild-mannered man.
Yale Fyler is not an open book. Although it’s doubtful that he would ever admit it, he’s a bit more complex than his soft-spoken demeanor shows at times. He even confessed that his distant relatives started the Yale lock company and helped start an impressive little university in the East by the same name. His parents decided to honor him with the name Yale as his first name.
Today, the guy named Yale owns a little used bookstore in Cortez. Its name sums up the store and Fyler perfectly. Simple, honest, to the point with down-home appeal and just one word is necessary. BOOKS is the name of the store.
Just like those old signs that say Food, Gas or Eat — the name BOOKS says it all.
Fyler is patient and economical with his words, rationing out just what is necessary to emphasize his thoughts. He smiles as he recalls why he got into the bookstore business a dozen years ago.
“I was spending too much money and too much time in the used bookstore. The owner was going to close it down, so he talked me into buying it.”
He let’s his mind drift back to that time: “I’m not sure why I let him do that,” he said with another smile.
Dressed in denim and more denim, Fyler’s weathered and worn work boots are from his other profession.
“I work in metal. I weld and am a machinist,” he said, his rolled up shirt-sleeves a testament to his blue-collar background. “I’ve always like building stuff.”
He proudly pulls out a book with glossy photos of the meticulous and upscale metal work he did at a multi-million dollar home in Telluride.
He smiles again when he compares his two jobs.
“This is pretty easy compared to the other one,” he said sitting on a stool behind the counter at BOOKS. “It gives me a little time off from doing a real job.”
Fyler carefully considers the question of what appeals to him about reading. And of course, only one word is necessary:“Knowledge.”
He says he loves non-fiction and technical books. “I’m hard to entrain, so I can’t get too excited about a lot of fiction.”
In one of the corners of the 1,800 square foot store, two women from Eastland, Utah are comparing notes on romance authors. Charlene Johnson, 76, and Joan Harvey, 72, have been coming to the little bookstore at 124 Pinon Drive for years.
As a farmer’s wife, Johnson tags along with her husband when he travels 55 miles to Cortez for supplies.
“He drops me off here and I shop for books,” Johnson said. “This is the best bookstore I’ve ever been in.”
Reading has always been part of their lives. Johnson says it’s no mystery why reading is important.
“I got married very young and didn’t have the chance at a higher education. But reading helped educate me,” she said.
Harvey agreed: “I’ve always read and read to my children.”
Back on the farm, Johnson has 11 flower beds and so much of her gardening help has come from books, and of course BOOKS.
Fyler is humble about his bookstore. He’s seen better, but BOOKS is impressive. Packed shelves all the way to the ceiling. Row after row, meticulously organized in alphabetical order and categorized by genre. The yellow and black bookmark they hand out says “more than 1/2 mile of shelves.”
“It’s important for me and the customers seem to like it,” he said about the organized book inventory.
There’s the classic “1984” from George Orwell, the dusty trail western writings of Zane Grey and the suspense of Grisham and the science fiction of L. Ron Hubbard and the nonfiction of politicians and celebrities. Book after book after book. For readers that like to sink their teeth into a bloody-good book there’s the vampire-crazed genre of Stephenie Harris, Lauren K. Hamilton and others.
And for those who desire to answer the whimsical question “What light through yonder window breaks?” The complete works of Shakespeare are ready to be taken home for a cumbersome read.
Remembering back a generation or two, there weren’t too many young boys who didn’t lose themselves in the adventures of Frank and Joe Hardy, a pair of mystery-solving amateur detectives. BOOKS has the timeless Hardy Boys collection on its shelves.
There’s something for everyone.
And of course, BOOKS has the magical adventures of the J.K. Rowling series “Harry Potter.”
“I don’t see a lot of kids coming in,” Fyler said. “I see a lot of grandparents and they buy whatever they want to inflict onto their grandkids.”
Back when he bought the place and decided to move it to its current location he only had two demands.
“I had to have off-street parking and no stairs,” he said.
The older generation is a big part of his customer base.
A massive inventory
Fyler offers another smile and a nod as he calculates his massive inventory, which he estimates at 100,000 but he’s not sure. The inventory is not in the computer, but he has no trouble quickly finding a title or author when a customer asks.
The front room is full of mostly new books with a fairly extensive number of regional history books.
On this day, three friends are hanging out in the front tackling some of the world’s problems with a lively conversation.
“It’s a bit of a social place,” Fyler said with a grin “But I don’t serve coffee.”
There’s a semi-truck trailer out back full of books and another building half full of books.
“I have so much inventory I don’t know what to do with it. I’ve got too much stuff but it’s still too valuable to throw away,” he said. “Maybe someday, I’ll open up that trailer and get it organized.”
People who donate books get a credit to buy other books from the store.
Fyler knows times have changed for bookstores. The Internet is to bookstores what Hannibal Lecture is to neighbors at dinner time. Internet sales have chiseled away at the brick and mortar stores, electronic books are now the newest trend for readers. With the recent announcement that the huge chain Borders was closing, it’s clear that bookstores are facing a major challenge as the pages are turned in the future. But Fyler shrugs and says his business hasn’t changed all that much over the years. He still believes that BOOKS serves a business and community niche in Cortez, so it has plenty of shelf life remaining and the store’s epilogue isn’t ready to be written yet.
As for Cortez, he’s seen plenty of change.
“Cortez is getting big,” he said shaking his head. “It’s a lot different than it used to be.”
Fyler moved with his family to Cortez when he was a yountgster and graduated from Montezuma-Cortez High School in 1980.
As far as kids not reading as much as they once did, Fyler again offers a shrug. “I think the ones who are going to read are always going to read; whether it’s a book or an electronic book.”
Fyler says his business is still viable and he doesn’t plan on changing things now.
“I never really planned to own a bookstore. It just kinda happened,” he said.
But he enjoys owning a bookstore.
“It’s a fun business and it’s fun for the customers,” Fyler said about his little bookstore with a 1/2 mile of shelves and more than 100,000 books.
For book lovers who stop by BOOKS, one word can sum it up best.