A Children’s Place Bookstore (ACPB) just celebrated its 40th birthday last June, commemorated its grand re-opening last weekend, and today is still Portland’s oldest and most beloved independent children’s bookstore. I visited owner Pam Erlandson and her team during the grand re-opening festivities on Saturday, March 14 and here’s what I learned.
Why the Move
As the price of property rises in Portland, landlords are increasingly raising the rent, forcing small businesses and renters to move out. So it was with the Northeast 48th and Fremont building ACPB occupied. “People in the neighborhood were so upset they protested the rent hike and the forced move to the landlord!” Pam said. “It didn’t work, but it was wonderful to see how much a part of the neighborhood we’d become.”
That’s why it was so important to Pam to find a new home for ACPB that was still close to the old neighborhood. Now located 34 blocks West at Northeast 14th and Fremont, the new store is nestled in-between Backyard Birdshop, a children’s resale store called Beanstalk, and a Starbucks. A county library branch is around the corner, along with a Whole Foods. “This is a great location for us. The old store was about three times the size, but we get a lot more foot traffic here,” said Billie Bloebaum, a bookseller at ACPB.
How Pam Came to Own ACPB
Pam had only worked at ACPB for a few months in 2003 when the previous owner decided to sell it. Pam went home and asked her daughter, Anna, a huge reader, “What if we bought the bookstore?” Anna loved the idea! Pam bought the store in 2003. “It was a totally crazy decision, but I wanted the store! We went through some tough times with the economy and everything, but we survived, and prospered at this point, so that’s been great.”
Even more impressive is the fact that Pam was a reluctant reader as a child. She recalls being drawn deeper into reading when her teachers read aloud in class. “Being able to get into a story and kind of lose yourself. That’s what did it for me.” The Boxcar Children and Roald Dahl books were the childhood favorites that helped her become a booklover.
Programs & Events at ACPB
With the new momentum generated from the move and the grand re-opening, Pam and her team are looking forward to continuing some of the existing programs, and adding a few new ones. Every Thursday at 10:30a.m. they have story time, and every Friday at 10a.m. they have musical group Micah and Me in the house. Billie shared a few ideas she has for new programs including a children’s reading circle and a book group for adults who read children’s and YA books.
The Future for ACPB
While the move was difficult and emotional for staff and customers alike, the future is bright for ACPB. “It’s a very intimate space,” said Pam, “and I’m really looking forward to meeting a whole new group of people in this neighborhood. It’s all about personal relationships. That’s what I love about this business.”