Tulsa lost one of the best friends a book ever had.
This was posted Sunday to a Facebook page for Gardner’s Used Books & Music Inc.:
“Dear Friends of Gardner’s Used Books. Richard Gardner founded Gardner’s Used Books in 1991. The bookstore grew out of Richard’s passion for books and provides a selection as wide-ranging as Richard’s interests. We have the sad duty to inform you that on Friday, August 18th, Richard Gardner passed away unexpectedly.”
For book-lovers, Gardner's Used Books, 4421 S. Mingo Road, is Candyland. It’s only a teensy exaggeration to say the rows of book there go on forever — beyond forever, if you want to include an annex store (open on weekends) behind the store.
Raise your hand if, like me, you've spent hours going through the inventory at Gardner's Used Books and you leave knowing you could keep on exploring for weeks without seeing everything.
During an interview with the Tulsa World last year, Gardner said he probably had close to a million books in the store. He said he had warehouses full of hundreds of thousands more.
As someone who loved to read (“There’s just not enough time in the day to read everything you want to read,” he said), Gardner was happy to play matchmaker with people and books, even if you never set foot in his book store. Gardner operated a tax service about a mile from the book store. In addition to free ice cream, soda and snacks, customers at the tax service treated themselves to books and comics. Take 'em home. Really.
“It makes us better citizens and makes them better people,” Gardner said. “If you don’t read, it’s not good for you.”
Reading brought back good childhood memories for Gardner. Once upon a time, he frequented long-gone Terry’s Old Book Store (founded 1924) in downtown Tulsa.
Asked if he opened a store because he felt there was a void, Gardner said, “Basically. But I never thought it would be this big or overwhelming.” He credited employees and customers for the growth.
The Facebook post said Gardner’s Used Books will continue to operate “with Richard’s vision and our family’s commitment to Tulsa.” The store will be closed Thursday, Aug. 24, to allow employees to attend services, but the store will reopen Friday, Aug. 25.
“Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we work to fill some very big shoes,” the Facebook post said.
RIP, Richard Gardner. And thank you.