Filed Under Businesses

Mac's Backs-Books

Technology has been changing the shape of entertainment on Coventry Road for quite some time. Bars on the street can now show virtually any sporting event from around the world live and in high-definition, while DJs tote laptops filled with hundreds of thousands of songs to make dance floors come alive. For the past thirty years, however, Mac's Backs-Books has held free monthly poetry readings that rely on nothing more than the human voice and creativity. With bookstores closing across the city, the continued success of Mac's Backs and its literary events are a testament to the store's close ties to the Coventry community, which has not entirely turned away from its "hippie" roots.

Jim McSherry and Suzanne DeGaetano opened Mac's Backs-Books above the old Dobama Theatre on Coventry Road in 1982. In 1984 the store moved to a larger spot at 1785 Coventry Road, on the north end of the street. Around this time, the store began holding poetry readings on the second Wednesday of each month. This tradition started when poets Daniel Thompson (the first poet laureate of Cuyahoga County) and Dennis McDonnell approached Macs Backs’ owners after a nearby coffee shop no longer wanted to host. The poetry readings at Mac's Backs have featured both professional authors and amateur poets, and other literary events such as book clubs and author talks are frequently held at the store.

In 1993, Mac's Backs moved to its present location at 1820 Coventry Road, right next to Tommy's, another long-standing Coventry business. The neighborhood actually has two bookstores; the other is Revolution Books, a mainstay at the corner of Coventry and Mayfield Roads since the 1970s. Many of us also remember Delphic Books, which recently gave way to a coffee shop, and Coventry Books, which resided on Coventry from 1972 until the early 1980s. Mac's Backs, however, has no plans to expand, close or move—preferring to remain the small, customer-focused shop that it has been since it opened.

Audio

Poetry Readings Suzanne DeGaetano describes the monthly poetry readings at Mac's Backs. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
"A Shopkeeper" Suzanne DeGaetano explains why she likes the Coventry neighborhood, and discusses why she has no plans to expand her store to another location. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
An Ideal Location Suzanne DeGaetano explains why Mac's Backs ended up opening on Coventry Road. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
Coventry Books Lorence Hyler laments the closing of Coventry Books, a popular bookstore on Coventry Road in the 1970s and early 1980s. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Images

Inside Mac's Backs A view from the upstairs of Mac's Backs shows the main sales floor, as well as the entryway to the basement where poetry readings and other events are now held. Image by Flickr user 'TheClevelandKid'
Old Exterior, ca. 1985 After leaving the space above the Dobama Theatre in 1984, Mac's Backs second location was at 1785 Coventry Road, shown here. It left this space on the north end of Coventry Road and moved to its current location next to Tommy's in 1993. Image courtesy of the Cleveland Heights Historical Society
Coventry Books Coventry Books is the backdrop for a medieval battle at the Coventry Street Fair in the 1970s. Coventry Books was located at 1824 Coventry Road (now the site of Tommy's restaurant) from 1972 until the early 1980s. Image courtesy of Joe Polevoi
Revolution Books, ca. 1970s Revolution Books has been located at the corner of Mayfield and Coventry Roads since the 1970s. The store sells books and holds events that support the views of the Revolutionary Communist Party, which owns the store as well as several other stores around the country. Image courtesy of Joe Polevoi
'Books Are Weapons,' 1983 Supporters of a socialist political organization run a book-selling stand at the 1983 Coventry Street Fair. Image courtesy of Joe Polevoi
1820 Coventry 1820 Coventry Road - presently the site of Mac's Backs - housed Tommy's restaurant from 1978 until 1988. A massive fire in 1988 gutted a number of buildings on this block, including Tommy's, which then moved next door to its current location at 1824 Coventry. Image courtesy of Tommy Fello

Location

1820 Coventry Rd, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118

Metadata

Michael Rotman, “Mac's Backs-Books,” Cleveland Historical, accessed September 27, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/541.