Erasmus Books collects, sells used books on E Wayne St
Allison Srp | Monday, October 30, 2023
Erasmus Books, a used bookstore located about a 10-minute drive from campus, stands in stark contrast to bookstores like Barnes and Noble.
The store is in a house in a residential area of South Bend. Rather than being brightly lit and full of tables of recent bestsellers, Erasmus Books is cozy and a bit dim, with books packed onto shelves and sometimes spilling over into piles on the floor.
“This is a little bit more like an antique shop,” according to owner Philip Schatz.
Schatz, who wrote for The Observer in its early days, said his overflowing shelves are a more efficient use of space compared with spacious displays.
“I’m always having to look around for more [shelves] because there’s never quite enough,” he said.
The books fill the first floor and basement of the house, and there are a few spots for customers to sit while they talk or read. Erasmus Books, as a whole, encourages customers to take their time browsing instead of coming for a particular book and leaving once they find it.
Schatz said the store goes back to an arrangement in the late 1970s, when two high school English teachers at St. Joseph High School started a bookstore. Schatz and his partner took over the store in the spring of 1980.
The house in which the store is located was designed in 1912 in the prairie style by an architect who was inspired by the style of Frank Lloyd Wright.
It is designated as historic landmark by the South Bend Preservation Commission. Other historic buildings by the same architects in the area are no long standing, Schatz said.
“When the preservation commission approached us in 1992 to ask if they could nominate this for that rating we said ‘sure,’ because that would make it a little bit harder for someone to tear it down.”
Erasmus Books has a wide array of genres for customers to choose from history to fiction, gardening to psychology, children’s books to drama.
Isaac Bradley, a philosophy major at Holy Cross, said students go to Erasmas books to drop off their good stuff.
“His selection is better than anyone else in town,” Bradley said.
Many of the books sold in the store are editions which are older and difficult to find at other places. There are is even a section of first editions, Schatz added.
According to Schatz, customers still want the old books he sells, even in an era where reading online is increasingly popular.
“People tell me that they love the illustrations of books … the dust jackets and the covers and the art that is interspersed in text, in spite of being able to read on screens and things,” Schatz said.
When people bring him books they are looking to get rid of, Schatz said he will sort through them, find the ones he thinks will sell well and make the book seller an offer.
“Sometimes the books sit on the shelf for a long time and you think, ‘Oh, I guess maybe I shouldn’t have bought those,’” Schatz said, “But other times they fly off the shelf, and it’s fun to see what happens.”
Erasmus Books is located at 1027 E Wayne St and is open from noon to 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.
“A nice thing that happens in this kind of a bookstore is that books that you might not find in a place like Barnes and Noble will surface in the collections of people who sell them to me, and then I get to put them on the shelf,” Schatz said.