Last Tuesday, the Seattle area’s newest bookstore opened its doors. Located in Redmond Town Center, Brick & Mortar Books is a general-interest new bookstore that will carry up to 30,000 titles when its shelves are full. For the next month, Brick & Mortar will be in soft-opening mode as its team of booksellers learn the ins and outs of bookselling and meet their community. On the weekend of June 23rd and 24th, the store will host its official grand opening weekend.
Brick & Mortar co-owner Dan Ullom was kind enough to chat on the phone with us late on the evening of his store’s second full day of business. He sounded tired but happy, and eager to learn more about his newly chosen career. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation. To watch Brick & Mortar evolve and grow into its new space, you can follow the store on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Thank you so much for agreeing to talk. I’ll try not to keep you on too long. I know you’ve had a bunch of long days. Can I ask, first of all, your title?
I’m one of three owners at Brick & Mortar Books. Actually, I should probably say four owners. We have three active owners — my mom, my dad, and I are all in the store every day. My wife, Heidi, is also an owner but she works at Seattle Children’s Hospital. So far, every day she’s also worked at the store, but she hasn’t quit her day job.
Wow. So, it’s a family affair.
It is. I have two kids and both of them worked in the store today. My son is an expert in breaking down boxes and my daughter is learning to shelve books.
How do you go about opening up a bookstore with no experience? It’s been done, obviously: The owners of Ada’s Technical Books on Capitol Hill had no experience at all selling books. What did you do? Did you read books on it or did you talk to booksellers?
We started by talking to people. Ada’s Technical Books is an amazing bookshop. One of the first things we did is we went to a bunch of bookshops and we talked to the owners and the people that worked there. [Ada’s co-owner] David [Hulton] was one of them — he told me, “you’ve got to carry these toys; you’ve got to carry this title. In your area, we really think these books will sell.” I was like, “Wow, you’re just giving me the trade secrets here.”
I think the thing is, we all want to see each other succeed. I went to Village Books, and the owner of Village Books sat down with me for three or four hours and told me what the business was like and told me how to succeed. I went to Island Books and talked to people there. They’re really helpful.
It really is a weird thing: I have a feeling if I was opening up a coffee shop, the other coffee shops wouldn’t want to help me out. Maybe that’s not true, but opening a bookstore is just such a unique, different thing.
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