A Blog of Seattle Arts & Lectures

Bookshop Superheroes: Queen Anne Book Company

Bookstore workers and owners have been absolute essential workers during this pandemic—heroes on the frontlines of our mental health. After those first months when reading felt really hard, when the doom-scrolling kept us in our lizard brains, books were there waiting for us in all their analog selves. Books, as one 2020 Summer Book Bingo player said, are the only safe way to travel right now. 

In appreciation of our local indies who have reinvented their processes and protocols over and over again in the service of getting the just-right book to the just-right hands, our  Bookshop Superheroes blog series features interviews with our partner bookstores and special Instagram takeovers to get a glimpse into a day in their store. (Not following us yet on Instagram? Check us out!)

Next up is Queen Anne Book Company, who is taking over our Instagram on Tuesday, May 4! 

Set back a bit on Queen Anne Avenue is a beloved gem of the neighborhood—Queen Anne Book Company (QABC). Three longtime residents rescued the space and opened their store on March 1, 2013. Krijin, Judy, and Janis crossed paths fortuitously, and for the love of their neighborhood and books, came together to offer their store as place in the community. Janis, manager and co-owner, elaborates on how QABC builds community and the joy that selling books brings.

How do you use the bookstore to build community?

We believe the best communities are built person-to-person. We built Queen Anne Book Company on this foundation. We embody a place where all people can enter, make connections, have meaningful conversations, and find books to enrich their lives, and thus the lives of those around them. We listen carefully to the needs and wants of our customers and make sure to have relevant book choices for them. This strengthens the bonds between QABC and the community—knowing (as a customer) you have been heard and your opinions matter.

QABC also reaches larger communities through our book programs like Books to Prisoners—getting books directly to prisoners; Book Angel—putting books into the hands of underserved children and their families through Page Ahead, Mary’s Place, and others; and Washington State Library Institutional Library Services (WSLLILS) Wish Lists—curated lists directly for individual prison libraries.

What have been some of the blessings or silver linings of this time?

This past year has certainly been a challenge. It has also held areas of joy, hope and a renewed, quite satisfying settling into the roots of who we are: booksellers. We pivoted our business model from in-store to web order fulfillment during those first hard three months of 2020. Much joy came from going to our order queue each morning and seeing pages and pages of orders from our customers, many with personalized notes of encouragement and thanks. Our hopes were buoyed, and still are, by the continued positive comments and input from our customers and community. It feels that we have collectively been through a daunting period and we are still dancing. Our customers and community want us to succeed, they want their book home to keep breathing, and together we are making it happen.

What is most fun about selling books?

There is sheer joy in seeing a face light up over a book—really nothing better—matching just the right book to just the right person! There is sometimes that moment of beautiful alchemy between a customer and a book, like it has been theirs since the moment it was printed and was just waiting for this person to come along and take them home.

It usually unfolds something like this: a delighted gasp will emerge from amongst the books, “What?! Oh my!” and a person will come hurrying to the front desk, carefully holding a book, eyes glowing, and gush, “I have been looking for this book forever! I can’t believe I found a copy here!” Sometimes it is more quiet, and the person didn’t know they were going to find a book they had somehow lived without so far: “Wow. (Shaking head.) This book is absolutely incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it. Yet, somehow I knew from the minute I saw it that I had to buy it.” Such fun… It is why I love what I do. Stories are made every day around books.

Posted in Behind the Scenes