Book Stop owner Jerry Lane often had a stack of books that weren’t for sale. When the bookseller came across a book that he thought someone would like, he’d set it aside and, oftentimes, gift it to them for free.
“He was generous,” said private bookseller Ed Ripp. “He wanted good books in people’s hands.”
A lover of murder mysteries, Lane was the “patriarch” of Albuquerque bookselling, said Mark Holmen, owner of BookMark and organizer for the Albuquerque Book Fair. Lane died Sept. 23 after a year of declining health, according to Ripp. He was 78.
“He was as nice a guy as any of us have ever met,” said Nick Potter, who owns Nicholas Potter Books in Santa Fe. “He was generous of heart and spirit on so many levels.”
They became friends just after Lane opened his used book store, and although their businesses were in different cities, they were both frequent visitors at each other’s shops.
Lane once gave him a paperback copy of A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, Potter said.
“It was a fiction book that did raise my spirits, and I passed it on to a friend who was in the hospital that needed their spirits raised,” Potter said.
The pair eventually tracked down the movie version and watched it.
“When you interacted with Jerry, you were better off for it,” Potter said.
Lane was born on Feb. 8, 1944 in San Diego, California. He didn’t always work in books; the businessman served in the Air Force for several years, Ripp said. Later, he owned a coffee shop in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco, before becoming a traveling gift-card salesman. Lane moved to Tucson in 1973, where he was introduced to the book trade by Laurie Allen, who owned a Book Stop location in Tucson and helped Lane open his own store opened in Albuquerque. Lane opened the bookstore in 1979.
Ripp met Lane soon after Chicago native Ripp moved to Albuquerque in 2009. When the beer boom hit the city several years ago, Ripp and Lane tried out new bars every week. Ripp, a fan of craft beers, said he gained 15 pounds that year.
Rachel Hess worked for Lane for five years in the mid-1980s. She said he could talk to anyone about anything. Eventually, Lane pushed her to open her own bookstore – which she did in 1989.
“He had a habit of helping his competition,” Hess said. “He told me ‘Rachel, it’s time to open your space and spread your own wings.'”
Lane gave Hess a wall of bookshelves to start Rachel’s Books. She was one of several former employees of Lane who went on to open their own bookstores. Hess has since closed the bookstore after having her third child.
Although Lane originally opened Book Stop in Nob Hill, the bookstore had many homes over the years. Book Stop finally landed in a spot on Washington and Lomas, before Lane closed the brick-and-mortar in 2015. But Lane later reopened at 1512 Girard NE over a year ago, with a sign that reads to this day “open by appointment or chance.”
Potter said the essence of the store never changed.
“I think the change was more the address than the business,” Potter said. “I think Jerry was consistent in the books he wanted to handle: good books with fair prices.”
Ripp said that in the 13 years he knew Lane, Lane’s store changed location about five times. Every time, he carried his own books to the new location. And, every few months, Lane would haul a truck full of unsold books to donate to a library in California – not an easy feat, Ripp said.
“I’ve been lifting and shifting books for 30 years, it’s not fun,” Ripp said.
Lane had a good sense of humor, and never stayed cross for long.
“He was a great storyteller, joke teller – such a positive person,” Potter said. “He just stood for good things as far as I was concerned.”
A man once stole a book from Book Stop, Potter said. Lane went running after the man; although he was unsuccessful, the incident was covered by the local news, and a witness described an “old man running after him.” Potter said that Lane thought the description was hilarious.
“He was a fixture on the book scene here,” Ripp said. “He was a force for good and the type of bookseller he was is a dying breed.”
A private memorial is planned for late October.
Lane is survived by a sister in California.
“The bookselling world in Albuquerque and the world at large are much smaller places with Jerry’s passing,” Ripp said. “… He was a beloved man, and I’m gonna miss him terribly.”