“There is no doubt that Mary Gleysteen is the best bookseller ever to walk the boards of our store, and we will miss her terribly. She retires from bookselling at the end of this month.” That’s just a touch of the sentiment shared on behalf of the staff of Bainbridge Island, Washington’s Eagle Harbor Book Co. in today’s store newsletter announcing the departure of the beloved Mary Gleysteen after more than twenty years.
The goodbye letter also goes on to tout Gleysteen’s dedication to homegrown talent. “If you are a local author represented on our shelves, thank Mary. As a champion of your book, be it independently published or brought out by one of the big houses, Mary has always regarded inclusiveness of local talent as an essential part of her devotion to the store.”
Jonathan Evison, author of the bestselling and Pacific Northwest Book Award shortlist finalist novel West of Here, considers himself the poster boy for that praise. “After twenty years of struggle and heartache as a novelist, when things really blossomed for me at BEA last year, there was Mary Gleysteen, front and center, literally throwing me up in the air and catching me in her arms.” Okay, maybe it’s metaphorical, but he is grateful for her support and mastery. “Just two days ago I was in signing stock at EHB (back in the kids section so I could keep an eye on Owen), and for twenty minutes I listened to Mary passionately and decisively work her magic on a customer, and I was thinking: Here is one of the great hand-sellers of all time. It was inspiring to watch her fill that customer’s arms with books. Everyone benefited–the authors, the customer, the publisher, the store, the local economy . . . Everyone was happy!”
Conversely, Algonquin Books‘ Marketing Director, Craig Popelars, is not at all happy, though extremely grateful. “No! Is this some kind of cruel joke? The damn Mayan calendar did not predict anything this apocalyptic. Without Mary Gleysteen, I don’t think the Pacific Northwest would have ever discovered Algonquin. This is not only a loss to the Bainbridge community but the greater bookselling and publishing world. Her enormous heart and her passion for good books helped our little publishing house in so many ways.”
Geez, will anyone dare apply when her job posts? For a better idea of just how large are the shoes that will soon need filling, read NWBL’s interview with Gleysteen, “Mary Gleysteen Will Give You the Book off her Sunporch,” from early this year.