Julie Tate-Libby and Ken Libby used to own a small café across the street from Trail’s End Bookstore in Winthrop, Washington. Julie says she loved the bookstore and went in nearly every week for books on meditation and coping with stress. When the couple, along with their daughters, Annika (8) and Mia (4), returned to Winthrop from living overseas a year ago and found that Trail’s End was for sale, they were intrigued. (Anyone looking for info on the previous owners, Brian and Amy Sweet, can find a chronicle of their recent adventures here.) Julie remembers thinking that nothing could be as much work as a restaurant. Ken quit his construction job, and the family bought the store last fall. Julie continues to teach anthropology part-time at Wenatchee Valley College. She took some time from all the juggling to answer a few questions for NWBL.
What’s more demanding, running a bookstore or running a restaurant? Running a restaurant is definitely more demanding, though at the moment I feel busier with teaching, children and the store. At this point I’ve resigned myself to never getting everything done on my list and just managing the chaos, but, overall, I feel very lucky. Who else gets to peruse children’s art books or read Townie for ‘work?’
Will you describe your neighborhood? Trail’s End is located in a small Western-theme town in an outdoor recreational area. We have a lot of second home owners, artists and athletes. The ‘neighborhood’ per se is pretty small. The town is about two blocks long, but nearby we have a small community school, a network of cross country ski trails, an ice skating rink, resort and several other small towns that make up the Methow Valley.
What’s the best lunch within walking distance? We have an excellent little bistro restaurant that serves dinner on their back porch just down the street (Arrowleaf Bistro), and in the next town over there’s a very hip brew pub (Methow Valley Brewing Company) where people get together and hang out.
What have you read recently that you want to press into the hands of your customers? I just read Townie by Andre Dubois and loved it! I can’t wait for someone else to read it so I can talk about it with them. I thought the way his relationship with his father evolved over the years was very real, but so full of redemption. I finished reading it on a snowy afternoon and just sat there for a while, soaking it in. The forgiveness at the end was tangible. I think it’s incredibly hard to write honestly about your own family and Dubois was able to write in a way that was real, but also honoring to his late father.
What’s selling right now? Probably our bestseller for new regional books this summer is Hiking Washington’s History.
What changes have you made in the store in the last few months? We have a new coffee bar and are roasting our own coffee. People love it. Also, I’m working on organizing our local history section into a regional Pacific Northwest section. We’ve gotten lots of new-to-the store regional titles.
What are some of your favorite sidelines? I’m experimenting with new sidelines. We sell a lot of games and educational materials for kids, workbooks, etc. I love these little Pooh characters I got in for Christmas. My husband got some a great Rio Grande games in the store. They’re all board games and a little hard for me to follow, but people who are ‘gamers’ really like them.
What’s a CD that you play over and over? Maybe this is taboo, but we play Pandora. My favorite station is Clara Wieck Schuman, but that’s a little too operatic for the store, so we usually play a variety of classical guitar.
Will you talk a little about your children’s roles in the store? They meet at the store after school and dribble boots, bags, and coats around my office or sit on the couch in the children’s section and look really cute reading books to each other. Occasionally they help other parents feel good about their own children when they see ours throwing fits and being generally naughty. It’s a very kid-friendly store now. Seriously, the girls love the store and one of the main reasons we bought it was for them to be with us at work. Annika has started reading advance children’s books for the store, and Mia is our little Darwinist who looks at anything having to do with frogs, bugs, fossils and dinosaurs.
Name three Northwest authors you’d like to invite to dinner. Since I’m very new at the book industry, I’m not too hip on Northwest authors, but I can tell you the three people who have written about the Northwest that I’d like to invite for dinner. First, off the top of my head: Annie Dillard. I discovered Annie in college and spent a whole summer reading Pilgrim at Tinker Creek with my toes literally dangling in the river. I love her perspective on the natural world: it’s brutal and transcendent and terribly beautiful. I also loved Holy the Firm, which she wrote in the Northwest. Second would be David James Duncan. I loved the River Why and read an article he wrote a few years ago for Orion Magazine about why fundamentalists need artists, poets and misfits in the world. Like Dillard, he has a unique perspective on the environment and expressing our humanity within that environment.
The third author I’m fascinated with is Sherman Alexie. I teach near the Colville Confederated Tribes Reservation and I’d love to hear him talk about his life and what it was like growing up near Spokane. I see a lot through my students, and although I grew up in this area and have come back to it, the world they grew up in was very different from mine. Similar to the other two authors I mentioned, Alexie has this sort of raw beauty that is both tragic and divine. I guess what I like about them is their worldview which comes through in their writing. It’s not the stories so much as the feeling behind their stories.
Perfect dinner for me would be grilled flank steak and stuffed peppers in the summer on our back deck with greens from my garden, fresh beets, and sugar snap peas . . . early July stuff. I’d serve a bottle of my favorite red: Marques de Cecaras and finish it off with fresh raspberries and custard.