We caught up with bookslinger Christina Claassen to talk about her experience at Village Books in Bellingham, where she’s been working for about a year now, helping with the store’s events. Before coming to Village, she ran a small library at an environmental learning center in North Cascades National Park. Claassen says her favorite thing about being a bookseller is interacting with customers and sharing information and ideas. “I’m a naturally cheery and talkative person, so I enjoy greeting a customer and giving advice,” she says. “Who wouldn’t love waxing poetic about her favorite books and watching people take copies home? Plus, sometimes customers give me good recommendations.” —interview by Doe Tabor
What makes your neighborhood unique? Fairhaven has been revitalized to make it modernly-historic (new buildings look like their historic counterparts). There is a little of everything in this walk-able neighborhood—dozens of restaurants, clothing and shoe boutiques, children’s stores, a “Village Green” for community events, a farmer’s market, trails that follow along the bay, spas and salons, outdoor shops. You name it, it’s available. It’s the place you take the relatives or your out-of-town guests to impress them and make them say, “I wish I lived in Bellingham.”
What are your favorite sidelines in the store? I have to admit, sidelines are just as tempting to me standing behind the counter, as they are to customers getting ready to make their purchases. When you have goodies like Theo fair trade chocolate bars, Nikki McClure’s postcard and notecard sets, and Ladies Sewing Circle & Terrorist Society buttons, it’s hard to pass them up. But the absolutely best sideline item in my opinion is our “Reading is Sexy” t-shirts, which are custom-made for Village Books. We created the design and they are screenprinted by Erin of RedBootsDesign here in Bellingham.
Will you recommend a book that might be off our radar? There’s a curious little book in our store called Manifesto that has a blank white cover and is written anonymously. I haven’t read it, but it amazes me we sell so many copies. It proves to me that we definitely “judge a book by its cover.”
Is there anything at Village that we wouldn’t find anywhere else? We’ve been publishing books on our Espresso Book Machine (EBM). We have printed more than 70 titles that are unique to our store and machine and have hosted author events for many of these. The books have ranged from local poetry and history to non-fiction topics to fiction novels. Store owner Chuck Robinson wrote and printed It Takes A Village Books, a history of the store, on the EBM, in celebration of the store’s 30th anniversary this year. (Seattle bookstores Third Place Books and the University Book Store, also have EBM’s).