An Interview with Queen Anne Book Company
April 12, 2019
What book nerd hasn’t fantasized about life as a bookseller? In this behind-the-scenes interview with Janis Segress, co-owner of Queen Anne Book Company, we learn what makes their store different, how one gets into the bookselling business, and what sparks joy about the job.
Since childhood, Janis Segress dreamed of owning her own bookstore. In 2013, that dream became a reality when she came together with partners Judy de Jonge and Krijn de Jonge, leasing the empty space left after Queen Anne Books’ closing. Together, they built their bookstore, Queen Anne Book Company, which has been the independent bookstore presence in Queen Anne ever since—recently, they celebrated their sixth anniversary.
All three partners are proud, long-time Queen Anne residents, passionate about their community and about books. Several QABC booksellers have been booksellers for the Queen Anne community for over 15 years, and they’re known for providing personalized, engaging and successful book experiences for every customer.
What prompted you to open a bookstore?
I grew up in a book household, so books were always part of our family language. Both of my parents are avid readers and encouraged reading from the beginning. My mom taught me to read and write when I was 3, and my parents were constantly reading to me, inspiring the love of story and language through the music of their voices. My dad was a college professor when I was young, then went back to school himself for a masters and doctorate; there were always text books laying around, papers being written, stories being discussed. I wrote my first book at age 7 and treated my request to send it to “the publisher” with respect. She sent it to Harper Collins. (I also received my first rejection letter at the age of 7!)
In addition to my love of all things words, I enjoyed setting up and running businesses in my neighborhood. One such business was a neighborhood newspaper. I’d go door to door and interview my neighbors for stories, then type them up on my mom’s typewriter. I hired my brother to draw comics and my very patient mom would print out multiple copies. I’d go back around and sell the paper, and use the money to buy treats for my brothers and I from the ice cream truck.
When I grew up a bit, I decided to combine these passions and get a business degree, with the goal of some day owning my own bookstore and writing on the side.
What do you love about your job?
I’m passionate about keeping the human connection alive and thriving. The physical book does that.
As booksellers, we have an important role in that. It is vital for us all to look up from our screens and have face to face conversations with others. I love witnessing the joy books bring, the emotion on faces from smiles to tenderness to even tears. I adore the stories around books that are told by people in our bookstore—of books bridging time, books providing insight and education to reach places not possible before, books bringing people together. I absolutely love what I do. To me, it’s not a job, it’s a daily purpose.
What’s unique about your bookstore?
Our bookstore has its own charming and welcoming personality that greets each person as they walk through the front door. We love our store and care for it well. We mindfully cultivate and tend our bookstore, from the curated books on the shelves, to the fresh flowers on the tables, the thought-out artistic displays, to the hand-written recommends, to the music selection playing. Our purpose is to provide a bookstore that becomes a friend—one you want to visit again and again.
Which SAL event are you most looking forward to, and why?
I’m a big fan of Tara Westover and her book Educated. I admire her ability to not only survive but succeed in a very large way, rising from the challenging circumstances she grew up in with her parents and family. I’m really looking forward to seeing her on April 14th!
Thank you, Janis and Queen Anne Book Company!