new mom-and-pop, brick-and-mortar book store opens in redmond

Es­ti­mated reading time is 4 min­utes.

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 . . .


Facade of Brick & Mortar Books in Redmond Town Center.

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.


BillJamesHistorical blueover

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.

With the opening of Brick & Mortar Books, Red­mond fi­nally has a new (not used) book store! Click To Tweet

Interior of Brick & Mortar Books.

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



1   Red­mond has two such stores: the in­de­pen­dent Mc­Don­ald’s Book Ex­change and the fran­chised Half Price Books.

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.




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