Vashon Bookshop was founded ten years ago by Karen Barringer, who recently retired and left the shop in the capable hands of co-owners Nancy Katica and Morgan Guion and staffers Carole, Laurie, Barbara and Linda. “All of us were customers of the bookshop first,” says Laurie. “Except maybe Carole who has been here from the very beginning. I don’t believe we’ve ever advertised. When a position opens up, we generally approach a customer who is already part of our lively bookshop community. It’s a very organic process, which is not surprising considering the island we live on.”
The store sells used and new books, and much of its inventory comes from customers bringing in books for store credit. “The breadth of our inventory is very much a reflection of the community we live in that so faithfully supports us,” says Laurie.
Describe your neighborhood? Our neighborhood, just like our bookshop, is very eclectic. We’re located in the heart of town on Vashon Island, a two-square-block area that include a wonderful old movie theater, a great coffeehouse, Vashon Teashop (connected to our bookshop), a variety of restaurants, a central Village Green that hosts our local farmer’s and artist’s market most Saturdays of the year, a music store, new and used clothing shops, a furniture store, specialty gift shops, pubs, art galleries, two hardware stores, as well as a pharmacy and grocery store that between them seem to have on hand just about everything anyone might ever need. We have to make up excuses to go off-island! The first Friday evening of every month, the town comes alive with art gallery openings and live music in most of our town venues, including the bookshop. It’s like a giant block party.
That sounds lovely. Are your customers this idyllic, too? In a word, Yes—we love our customers!
What’s the best lunch within walking distance? Well, everything is within walking distance. Cafe Luna offers soups and sandwiches as well as espresso. The Hardware Store Restaurant is housed in the historic corner building that was the island’s original, yep, hardware store. The Red Bicycle Bistro has burgers and fries as well as a fine sushi bar. And Spice Route Indian restaurant serves an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet. Last but not least, our local Thriftway has a wonderful deli.
What other shops do you visit in your neighborhood? We spend a lot of time next door at Kronos, a magical, one-of-a-kind clothing and gift boutique. Their official greeter is a distinguished silver royal standard poodle named Fibonacci.
What’s a CD that would make a great soundtrack for your store? Best of Bill Frisell, Volume 1: Folk Songs gets played more often than anything else, the perfect blend of jazz and folk, upbeat and laid back, just like us.
What have you read recently that you want to press into the hands of your customers? Selling both new and used books, we find ourselves recommending older works almost as often as current titles. I recently discovered I Lock My Door Upon Myself by Joyce Carol Oates: a slim, strange, haunting, dreamy, sensual novella told in breathless, lyrical, roiling prose that just floored me.
Can you recommend another book that might be off our radar? Three books that deserve more attention: Island by Alistair MacLeod, a collection of exquisite short stories; The Three-Day Road by Joseph Boyden, a finely wrought story of war and redemption; and a slightly obscure novel called The Wreckage by Michael Crummey. All three are by eastern Canadian authors writing from a deep sense of place and are rooted in the hard-scrabble lives of fishermen, farmers, hunters and soldiers. All three are excellent recommendations for men or women looking for a good, literary read along the lines of Cormac McCarthy.
Name three Northwest authors you’d like to invite to dinner. Seth Kantner of Alaska (Ordinary Wolves and Shopping for Porcupine), so we could listen to his lyrical tales of the Arctic wilds; Timothy Egan of Seattle (The Good Rain, The Worst Hard Time and The Big Burn) because he’s just so intelligent, articulate and engaging; and Willy Vlautin of Portland (Lean on Pete and Motel Life) because of his heartfelt, rough-around-the-edges, totally original stories. We would probably host a potluck at someone’s farmhouse featuring locally grown fruits, vegetables, meats, artisan cheeses, home-brewed beer and wine, and hand-made desserts, since that’s generally how we do things around here—low-key and local.