The Salas family have lived with intensity, through their library, the social and political changes in a turbulent Barcelona as well as tragic events such as the fire that burn down the Gran Teatre del Liceu. To know more about the history of Salas Llibreteria we have a first-person testimony, Lidia Salas, the granddaughter of the founder of this legendary bookstore. We have to say thank you to Salas Llibretería blog to let us use this content for our blog. Let’s discover how she remembers the shooting of a John Wayne’s film, as well as the social protests during the dictatorship in Spain, or the constant location changes after the fire at the Liceo Theatre until today…
What is the story behind Llibreteria Salas?
Ferran Farriol Salas (my grandfather), rented a shop located at number 53 of the Rambla dels Capuchins, in Barcelona, starting the family business, a library that sold and rented books. It was 1950. The place was in a passageway at the entrance. On one side it had some stairs for the neighbors to go inside and on its back were two doors, one facing the Gran Teatre del Liceu stage and the other was used by all workers and artists.
My grandfather was on his own for a short time, Emilio Salas, his son (my father), had to leave his job to go help him because they had to assemble and disassemble the stall every day. Some shelves were put on supports on both doors open and the books were kept within fixed shelves. The bookstore became a job but also a hobby for my father.
My father had also a stall at the Sant Antoni market on Sunday morning where they sold books as well as coins and stamps since he enjoyed philately and numismatics. I was born between books, sleeping inside the box where carrying books to the market.
Emilio Salas was one of the first six booksellers who started the Old and Used Book Fair in the Universidad Square in Barcelona. Times were hard but fun at the same time, Salas family didn’t know what holidays were. The library was more a gathering place than a selling store. Writers, painters, collectors, etc., enjoyed sharing their stories and experiences there.
Being inside the Liceo Theatre made the library a unique place. I remember when they were shooting the film “Circus World”, with John Wayne. I was fascinated by everything that was going on in there: they came around with the set decoration, some animals appearing on the film, etc. We had to be closed during the shooting, but we were authorized to expand the business with three sections over shelves, that was very good for us.
When my father got retired in 1975, we transferred the business to my husband and to me. I already had been working with my father in the library and my husband left his job at an auto repair shop to run the business with me. Thereafter my father devoted himself to writing. He published books like “The Power of the Pyramids 2″, ” The Great Book of Dreams”, ” The Great Book of Tarot “, “The Art of Tarot Cards”, ” The Book of Names”, etc.
But the fact of having an outdoor business had a lot of disadvantages apart from the cold of winter, such as protests in Barcelona that were unable to evade as we had to disassemble the stall in minutes. People found shelter in our store and the police gazed us, it was awful.
In 1994 there was a huge fire at the Teatro del Liceo, and we couldn’t go to work for a few days. Finally, we were authorized to go in, but it didn’t last long because from that moment they began the expropriations process all residents and we had to leave.
How was the constant location changes after the fire?
Well, it was a constant struggle, we look for a place as close as possible to the Rambla, in order to keep our customers, and rented an old perfumery on Union Street, we remodeled it and stayed there for five years. We had to suffer four years of works at the Teatro del Liceo, a year of works on the Union Street and then the works began on the Hotel Oriente, next to us. All this made us sank.
When we thought we had no choice, a fellow who was retiring offered us the place in which we are currently located, at Jaume I Street. This place had history, it had been a shoe store and then a tobacco shop, always keeping the decoration that we also keep. We opened the 13th of December of 1997, on the Santa Lucia Day.
What can we find in the Salas bookstore?
Books, of course!
Well, we have books in Catalan, Spanish and English, and also some in French and German. There are new publications and some old editions, cookbooks and many child tales, we like tales. We have had to adapt to this new environment, to the supply and demand. If they ask for guidebooks we have to have guidebooks, if they ask for postcards we have to have postcards, and so on. But we keep a storehouse with lots of old books and out-of-print books, and this is what we wish to promote. We are putting together a new website in order to allow our costumers to buy this kind of books.
What type of custoumers are the most common in the bookstore?
We have regular customers but the most common are in passing people, we are in the tourist center of Barcelona so we try to adapt our store to this fact.
Do you think that Catalans are good readers?
Yes, they are. And that is really obvious during Sant Jordi’s day. They are currently publishing many more books than before although people buy less of them, but the Catalans are still good readers.
How has the financial crisis affected Salas bookstore?
It has had a huge impact on us. People thinks twice before buying a book. We use to sell ten postcards at a time, and now we sell just one or two. If people get a discount on some book, they may buy it, but they hardly choose a new edition, they prefer to buy pocket books.
The problem with libraries is that the benefit left by the books is low and if sales decrease, it’s difficult to survive. This is the reason because of so many bookstores are closing, the costs are the same and the benefits are lower.
To end up… could you recommend us some essential books for this autumn-winter season?
Depends on what you like, a book is a very personal thing.
We just received the new Julia Navarro’s book (“Shoot, I’m already dead“), a historical novel, in November we will get a new book by Dolores Redondo, last season’s new talent. We don’t really know what will be published next season, so stay tuned for novelties.