Monday, September 18, 2017

Seattle Losing a Major Attraction

Sadly, it appears that Seattle Mystery Bookshop, which has been a must-visit fixture in my hometown’s historic Pioneer Square district for the last 27 years, will be closing at the end of its business day on Saturday, September 30. Owner J.B. Dickey, who purchased the store from founder Bill Farley near the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency, blames a variety of factors—including giant book outlets that discounted their wares, the sale of cheaper e-books, the demise of first-edition-collector culture, and the Great Recession’s hurtful impact on Seattle’s downtown—for this sad turn. In a short piece posted on the shop’s Web site this morning, Dickey writes:
I’ve worked here almost since the day it was open for business. At first, I was here just one day a week, so that Bill could have a day off—which he used to do bookkeeping at home. I remember [the Farleys’] long dining room table, which was covered with pile after pile of paperwork. I don’t know where they ate dinner. Slowly, this place absorbed my life until my brain looked like Bill’s dining room table. In ’98, when he felt like stepping back from ownership, Bill offered to sell it to me but, happily, he kept working with us all. It has been a great honor to own the Seattle Mystery Bookshop since 1999. Sadly, that is now going to come to an end. …

At one time, when this shop was young, there were at least three dozen independent mystery bookshops around the globe. NYC had four. DC had three. Now there are but a handful. It isn’t just us. I am dead certain that none of those that closed wanted to, but, in the end, there was no choice.

We’re all heartbroken to close the shop. I personally feel as if I have failed Bill. But we all fought hard to keep it going
for years, but the sharp bottom line is people have not been buying enough books from us to keep it working for a long time. Time to say goodbye.

I want to thank all of those loyal customers who have been regulars over the years. It’s been a gas.

What happens next?
It’s a mystery.
It’s difficult to imagine my going to Pioneer Square without stopping by the Seattle Mystery Bookshop on Cherry Street. I can’t tell you how many of the volumes decorating the walls of my home and office were purchased at that small store, but there would be significant holes on my shelves had it not been for Bill Farley, J.B. Dickey, and their wonderful, knowledgeable crew. It was also at the Mystery Bookshop that I had the great pleasure just last year of meeting and talking with one of my all-time-favorite authors, Philip Kerr.

I always used to feel proud that Seattle could support a crime- and mystery-fiction retailer, when other major U.S. cities could not. I will soon lose those bragging rights. Don’t be surprised if you see me paying a call or two on the Seattle Mystery Bookshop before the end of this month. There’s still room on my shelves that needs filling.


John said...

Sad to see any brick and mortar bookstore go. I live on the Eastside and don't get over there to that part of Seattle much (except for jury duty!), but when my Dad was alive some years ago, we'd trek over there for him to browse and special order titles that he was interested in. A classic, "cozy" bookstore, comfortable and a very pleasant and helpful staff always.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

That's sad. I used to buy books in Britain every summer and sell them via mail order, mostly in the pre-email days, and I sold many to Bill over the years. Sorry to hear it is closing.

Kevin C. said...

My one trip to Seattle, in 2009, included a visit to the shop. I think my purchases included the first novel of a new author--Gillian Flynn!

For awhile, whenever visiting a "new" city, I would seek out the local mystery bookstore(s). So sad there are so few now. Nonetheless, we must be strong, and keep reading!