A Blog of Seattle Arts & Lectures

Bookshop Superheroes: Secret Garden Books

In appreciation of our local indies who have reinvented their processes and protocols during the past year in the service of getting the just-right book into the just-right hands, our Bookshop Superheroes blog series features interviews with our partner bookstores. 

This week, we’re featuring Secret Garden Books, who is taking over our Instagram today, Tuesday, July 20!

On NW Market Street, in the heart of Ballard’s retail core, reigns Secret Garden Books, a woman-owned forty-four-year-old independent bookstore with a national reputation. Suzanne Perry, Events Manager, shares her thoughts on the job and the future of bookselling.

What is unique about your bookstore?

Secret Garden Books has been an independent, woman-owned shop since 1977. We are proud of our national reputation as a kid’s shop, so anytime Mo Williams or Jeff Kinney are touring their new blockbuster in Seattle, we’ll be the ones taking them into school auditoriums and hosting big public events with them.

We are friends with all of the kid’s book authors and illustrators who call Seattle home, and there are a lot of very successful ones! What some people don’t know is that over half the books we sell are for grown-ups! We do a booming business in excellent reading for adults, and our booksellers are well-read in a variety of areas, making our recommendations way more meaningful than any algorithm.

What do you like about your job as bookseller?

If you’ve ever wondered why there are rarely any job openings in independent book shops, it’s because our turnover is so low. Our booksellers love engaging with hungry readers about what the very best stories are currently, and there’s nothing as satisfying as a deep conversation about the intricacies of plot, setting, and character, for anyone who wants to really engage with another person creatively throughout their workday. We haven’t had to advertise a job opening in years, and we do not see that changing any time in the near or far future.

How has the pandemic affected your business?

Like everyone else on the planet over the past seventeen months, we’ve had to pivot entirely here at the Garden. Our percentage of online sales not only radically eclipsed in-person sales, it rose far and above anything we ever anticipated selling online. Our learning curve on processing mass quantities of online orders had to be fast and accurate, because in our world of one-click instant shopping gratification, customers have no tolerance for mistakes.

We became acutely aware that customers who shopped our website did so purposefully and conscientiously. It was not an accident, and they had every excuse in the world to go the “one-click” route. But our customers understood then and they understand now that, if they want a terrific bookshop within walking distance from their house—or even just an independent one nearby—they’d need to buy their books from it. So, we did learn how to process orders quickly and accurately, and we foresee those skills serving our customers permanently into a more “normal” future.

Thank you, Suzanne, and Secret Garden Books!

Posted in Behind the Scenes