The Word on the Avenue

| by Linda Blackwell Simmons |

“Stepping into the store felt like coming home,” said one of the first patrons to attend The Last Word Bookstore when it opened in late May.

With the closings of several chain bookstores in Fort Worth, it’s hard to find a place to browse, sit and chat with other readers, and support a local business at the same time. Look no more.

The Last Word Bookstore, owned and operated by Paul Combs, opened at 615 South Jennings Ave. in Fort Worth’s near Southside. Combs worked for a medical management company until early 2016 when he lost his job due to outsourcing. “When I found out my position was being eliminated, I asked my daughter if it would be crazy to open a bookstore, my lifelong dream,” said Combs. “She said no crazier than it would be to talk about it for the rest of my life and not do it.” Combs launched a GoFundMe online campaign and raised $9,000, which he used toward start-up costs.

Housed in a former beauty salon, the 2,700-square-foot store offers mostly new books and features more fiction than non-fiction with an emphasis on a wide selection of independent and local authors. The Last Word already carries titles from Dallas-based nonprofit Deep Vellum Publishing. Local artists get in on the action here too: The back alcove displays the work of local artist Indi Butler, who also created the store’s logo. Vinyl records from Fort Worth’s HD Vinyl and HiFi are also available. Local musicians will entertain with acoustic music in the near future.

Additionally, a variety of book clubs will be welcomed, the first of which is currently critiquing two novels by Hemingway. The Fort Worth Writers’ Boot Camp, a local writing group, will host a signing for its first literary journal, The Panther City Review 2016, the publication of which is planned for later this year. Combs, an author in his own right, has published a two-book series, The Last Word and Writer in Residence, about two cousins who inherit a bookstore and their adventures in trying to make it in the business.

“It’s frustrating to see ghost-written thrillers dominating the best seller lists when there are many other books that are also worthy of reading. Somewhere out there is the next Hemingway who just got told he can’t get published because there are no vampires or bondage in his writings,” according to Combs.

What great city doesn’t have an independent bookstore? Fort Worth residents already see the inherent value in supporting a homegrown business.

“I have been tremendously encouraged by the outpouring of support I have received since we opened and am more grateful than words can express,” said Combs. "I will always remember the first book I sold—The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry.”, 817.862.9859