I am Diana Portwood, manager of Bob’s Beach Books in Lincoln City, OR. I grew up here on the coast and came back after attending the University of Oregon. My parents each have their own business and many of you know them; Meg Portwood, my mom, is a nurse practitioner with her own clinic; my dad, Bob Portwood, started Robert’s Bookshop about 27 years ago and has been expanding ever since. This has given me a strong appreciation for all of the small and independent businesses here on the coast and the hard work it takes to keep them running and growing.
About nine years ago Bob’s Beach Books was struggling. My parents came to a difficult crossroads for the store: Either major changes needed to be made or it would have to be closed. They offered to sell it the the manager at the time, but she declined. So they asked me if I would like to try turning the store around. I can very proudly say that not only is the store still open, but each year has been better than the year before. We’ve expanded our offerings to making sure we have new release books the day they’re out; we’ve added several card and gift lines including handmade-in-America jewelry, eco-friendly tote bags, greeting cards by Lincoln City, Sheridan, and Eugene photographers; our “Fight Evil, Read Books!” bags and shirts; and so much more.
I strongly believe that shopping locally, supporting local businesses, is the foundation of a strong community. This is why our store shirts and tote bags are made in the USA and designed and printed in Lincoln County. I also believe in paying what I think something is worth. I know it’s easy to go online to buy something, but who is my money going to? Do they value the people who work for them? Do they pay a living wage? Is it a business I want to support? Is it worth my saving $3 to give that money to a big corporation somewhere else? Or would I rather see that money stay here where it can support local jobs and by extension local charities, local projects, etc? For me, the answer is easy–keep it local whenever possible.
I’m fortunate to have a job I love and to be able to work with my family. My sister got her Master’s degree and went into publishing, but got tired of the corporate attitudes and moved back to Lincoln City and (lucky for us) joined the bookstores. My dad, sister, and I have regular meetings to talk about what we can do to improve our stores and how we can serve our customers and community better. We supply books to the Backpack Program through Robert’s Bookshop, a wonderful program which provides much-needed meals and now free books to children.
People often mention (and marvel) that I always seem to be smiling or laughing, generally enjoying myself at work. Well, first off I’m grateful to be in a job and place that I love; I enjoy where I am. Second, most of the people who come in share my passion for books! We have fun together talking about what we’d like to read, sharing what we’ve enjoyed, and suggesting authors to each other. Third, I guess I try to live by the classic quote “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” If a smile from me can perhaps brighten a day, all the better.
That’s not to say that it’s always easy to keep a smile on my face; there are definitely challenges in any business/customer service environment. If I can get past that challenge and try out a smile on the next person who walks in the door, chances are they’ll smile back. And it just grows from there.
Each August I hold a group author event that has grown into one of the largest on the west coast. I’ve had to limit the number of signing authors as the number of authors who would like to attend and sign their books is otherwise overwhelming (200+!) and since I’m organizing it all I need to keep it small enough that I can manage it. Last August we had bestselling authors Lisa Jackson and Nancy Bush headline, the year before it was Phillip Margolin. We have such a rich and wonderful community of writers here, I hope you’ll all come out [this summer] to meet the group who joins us for this free event!
Now you know all about me, I invite you to come by Bob’s Beach Books to introduce yourself!
This piece originally appeared in “YOU” magazine, “Lincoln county’s best of the best long time businesses, restaurants and shops all located on the central Oregon coast.”