THE U.S. CENSUS of 2010 uncovered several dozen full-time book-lovers among the 59,000 residents of Redmond, Washington. Like most such readers, these residents required a regular intake of new and old books, and while some of their needs were filled by the King County Library System’s branch in Redmond, other needs have gone sorely lacking.
When Borders closed its Redmond store in 2011, there was no longer any local access to a leisure walk about a store, from one’s favorite sections (say, science fiction or baseball) to genres one rarely notices (such as basketball or New Age) to a wall of colorfully illustrated children’s books to the remainder table, where a book that you’d never pay $24.99 for can be found for two bucks.
Redmond readers wanting the latest titles were left with three options for purchasing current titles:
1) drive to book stores in surrounding towns,
2) buy new titles from the Internet, or
3) wait for those books to show up in used-book stores. 1
There was no getting to know the owners or employees, most of whom find their way into book sales through their own love of reading books.
There was no bumping into a stranger looking for the latest novel by Lew Shiner or collection of essays by Laura Kipnis.
Nope, Redmond readers were a lonely lot …
This is the front of Brick & Mortar Books as seen from across the way while sitting at an outdoor table sipping coffee and enjoying a croissant from The French Bakery.
Redmond readers rejoice
That changed on June 23, 2107, when a genuine, old-fashioned brick-and-mortar book store opened its doors. Brick & Mortar Books has a floor, a ceiling, and four walls, the latter lined with hardcover and softcover books.
That’s all new books!
My Saturday morning coffee klatch—John, Ami and Jon, and Berni and I—moved temporarily from our regular location at the Crossroads in Bellevue, the next city over) to Redmond Town Center. We were here for two new shops: the book store and a new location for The French Bakery. 2
Online retail is great if you know the book you’re looking for, but I miss places where you find what you weren’t looking for.
But before hitting the pastry shop (and savoring a fruit and cheese croissant or a twice-baked almond croissant), we stopped to check out the book store. We were greeted by one of the owners, John Ullom, who immediately inquired about the massive book in my hands. I handed him The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract and asked, “You know Moneyball?”
“Billy Beane built his teams by reading Bill James.”
“Oh! He’s the sabermetrics guy.”
“Yup,” said I. “If there’s only one baseball book you’re ever gonna read, that should be the one.”
“I’ll see if I can order a copy for the store.”
And he did.
This is the 2001 edition of The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract that I was carrying upon entering Brick & Mortar Books for the first time. It was subsequently updated and a revised edition with a different cover was issued in 2003.
4,000 square feet with 20,000 titles
Brick & Mortar Books is owned and operated by Dan Ullom and his parents, Tina and John. It’s reasonably large, but not overwhelming like so many of the chain book stores.
The Ulloms were inspired two years ago to open a bookstore after they read a newspaper article about Jeff Kinney, the author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, opening his own bookstore, An Unlikely Story, in Plainville, Massachusetts.
“We secretly harbored this collective dream of running a bookstore. We kind of thought this is a guy who can afford to open a bookstore and take his punches. That’s probably not us. But the more we looked into it, the more we thought this was a time that independent bookstores were actually doing OK, and maybe this is a way that we can do what we love and make a living.
We’re not going to change anybody on e-commerce and online retail, but people want to get together and talk about books. That’s what we believe. I think e-commerce and online retail are great if you are looking to save a couple bucks. Maybe if you know the book you are looking for already, that’s the way you’ll go. But I miss places where you find what you weren’t looking for.
The 4,000-square-foot shop will carry approximately 20,000 new book titles, with about one-third of the inventory geared toward kids and young adults. Three to five people will work in the store, and the Ulloms envision it as a community hub for story times, book clubs, discussion groups, and author appearances. (425Business)
It’s tastefully attired: unadorned wooden shelves line the walls, islands on the floor. The walls above the shelves are (thankfully) bare of posters and advertisements.
Finally, Book & Mortar Books has a Facebook page.
FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is of the interior of the store several months prior to its opening. The island with the black top in the center is the check-out area. Not seen in this photo are several large, cushy reading chairs on the left side as the visitor walks through the doors. 3
2 The shopping center at the intersection of NE 8th and NE 156th Streets in Bellevue is known as the Crossroads Mall, the Crossroads Shopping Center, and now apparently merely as The Crossroads. It was formerly home to a Barnes & Noble, also no longer in operation.
3 No, the Ulloms do not have plans to offer coffee at this time, as there are several excellent places in walking distance. And yes, you can bring coffee in from one of those places and read in one of those chairs.