In high school Sylla McClellan wanted to work at A Clean Well-Lighted Place in Larkspur, CA. She never got the chance, and the store is now closed. But McClellan has both sought and built her own well-lit places for books. After college in 1995, she worked at both Powell’s and Borders in Portland. She bought Third Street Books in the sleepy college town of McMinnville, OR, in 2004 and she quietly orchestrates its DIY blend of good reads, unique gifts, readings and community events in a cozy, warm environment that makes you want to hang out (while your kids lie on the floor reading Star Wars books).
McClellan, whose husband is a wine scientist, is also great at pairing books with wine for events (see below). And, for lucky dinner companions, she’ll choose the wine for your table without taking a break from talking about books.
McClellan might be working on a second endeavor in downtown McMinnville, but mum’s still the word about this . . . More details soon, we hope.
We asked her a few questions.
What’s the best thing about being a bookseller? I love connecting readers to books, and just connecting with readers! It almost doesn’t matter what you read. If you can speak passionately about it, I am interested. Since I read a lot of Nancy Drew as a kid, I also love the sleuthing aspect of finding a specific title for someone. With all the tools available to me, I can find most of the titles people are requesting, even when all they have to say is “the cover is blue!” I have found you just have to ask the right questions (and know when to accept defeat!).
Worst? I never have enough time to read all that I want to. Also, I personally hate doing events and am so grateful for my staff who host them! (Sorry authors!)
What’s the best lunch within walking distance? Hmmm. I love the wood-fired pizzas at Nick’s Italian Café (a wine-country institution). I am also a fan of Thai Country’s Tom Yum soup on a cold wet day. Mostly, I bring lunch from home.
What other shops do you visit in your neighborhood? The list would be shorter to mention the ones I don’t go to. Mes Amies down the street sells lovely women’s clothes (and they serve espresso!). Red Fox Bakery has great cinnamon swirls. La Bella Casa has all kinds of gifts and home décor. The Red Berry is another cute spot for funky fashions. The newly opened Community Plate across the street has great coffee and oatmeal. Last (but not least!) Thistle serves some fabulous cocktails in the evening!
What have you read recently that you want to press into the hands of your customers? I’m reading a galley of the new Jo Ann Beard, In Zanesville. I love her dry style, but it isn’t for everyone. Boys of My Youth is one of my top ten favorite books ever. In Zanesville is almost as good. I guess I am mostly disappointed that I had to wait so long!
I’m also a huge Jo Nesbo fan for people that read all the Stieg Larsson thrillers and want more of that style. Jo Nesbo’s books are just as thrilling, but better written.
I also recently finished a galley for Voodoo Vintners: Oregon’s Astonishing Biodynamic Winegrowers by Katherine Cole. A great read even for people who are not interested in the wine industry. I’m really excited for the May 19 event we are doing with Cole and several winegrowers featured in the book. Call 503-472-7786 to reserve your spot!
You’re great at picking out unique gift items. What are some of your best-selling and/or favorite sidelines in your store? We sell a lot of the “Heart in Oregon” stickers. A sideline that I love is the “Reading is Sexy” bright yellow mug. People always smile when they buy that!
Name three Northwest authors you’d like to invite to dinner. Sherman Alexie, James Beard, Katherine Dunn and Brian Doyle. We would have oysters (for James) and other locally procured meats and veggies, lots of Oregon Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (for Brian) and plenty of wild debate and laughter! I might just sit a little behind everyone and watch instead of participating.