Next time you’re visiting the Oregon Coast Aquarium, stop by the Hatfield Marine Science Center Bookstore and meet Lynne Wright, who’s been managing the bright and cozy store for ten years. Wright has filled the 490 square-foot space with a great range of beach-related gifts and guides and nonfiction—from the useful to the offbeat—for kids, science lovers and novices, tourists and grandparents. Ask her for a recommendation, and you’re in the presence of one of Oregon’s foremost experts on Coastal reading.
Wright began her bookselling career as assistant manager of a Waldenbooks in Michigan in 1980 and eventually worked for the Borders brothers (Louis and Tommy!) as their floor manager at their second independent bookstore. When the brothers sold their operation to a corporation, Wright, a die-hard independent bookseller, moved out to the Pacific Northwest and has worked in the region since.
Along with the challenges, there are many delights, and I love working in the environment of science and research. Every week is some new discovery for me about our world, and the research that connects us to it. I feel very fortunate that fate brought me to this lovely town on the mid-Oregon coast!
You sell a lot of gift items. What are some of your best-sellers? About forty percent or more of my store is non-book merchandise. Our store supports the educational mission of the marine science center, so I consider the books the heart of the store, but the other inventory items support and compliment them. Microscopes, bug bottles, logo clothing, posters, toy replicas, plush, cards, educational games, and stationary items are some of my bestsellers outside of the books. I had only ordered books in past positions, so locating good vendors and finding merchandise that would compliment the books and add to the whole educational experience was a steep yet interesting learning curve for me. It is a whole different buying language than books!
I was dead-set against carrying plush (Hey, I’m a bookseller at heart!) but finally found a couple of companies that have good quality and affordable merchandise that realistically reflect animals that we have in the center—such as octopuses—and they sell amazingly well. The non-book items are a great companion to the books we have, and they work together as a total theme. Our center’s octopus logo clothing items are also popular. Bug bottles and fossil shark teeth are the other bestsellers.
What have you read recently that you want to press into the hands of your customers? I just finished an amazing book that is not only timely, but is also extremely well-written and engaging. It’s The Power of the Sea by Bruce Parker. I am very lucky to have this author coming next month to do a presentation on the subject and a book signing. This book was published last November, and it tackles the science of tsunamis, storm surges, and our human quest to predict disaster. The author is an expert on the subject, and he has the rare talent to make science interesting and readable by a non-scientist audience. I highly recommend it to you all!
Kids books are really popular at Hatfield. What are some of your favorites? My newest favorite is Octopus Soup by Mercer Mayer, because it not only has our favorite animal here, the octopus, but it is also wonderful because it has no words. It has wonderful illustrations that create a fun and interesting story with a nice ending. One of my other favorite bestselling books is Oh Yuck!. This Workman book has been a favorite for years, and grandparents love purchasing this title. We have sold hundreds of this one, because it is a perfect combination of gross stuff and accurate science. What kid doesn’t love that?
What upcoming events you are excited about? I already mentioned Bruce Parker, an author who is a former chief scientist for NOAA, coming May 21 at 1:30 pm. In June we have a writer and artist, Taylor Morrison, who created a fisheries book (funded by NOAA) for all ages called A Good Catch. All of the authors that visit here for events speak in our auditorium on the subject, then sign books after the talk. That is the schedule for now, since we have our busy time of year June-August. It is sort of like our holiday sales season in comparison to other bookstores. Having our busy season so opposite from what I did for twenty years took me quite a while to get used to!