There are some key ingredients that make a great town or city. Right up there on the list is having a top notch bookstore. Village Books, in Bellingham’s Fairhaven neighborhood is an institution that’s made this enclave of century old brick buildings a better place since 1980. Many of the store’s employees have ten or fifteen years of service, two have been there 25 years. The three-story temple to reading cultivates the arts and its owners love of reading in many different ways.
We had lunch in the Book Fair Cafe on the third floor with the store’s events coordinator Christina Claassen. She said that they have about 300 book signing events a year, all part of owners Chuck and Dee Robinson’s commitment to their slogan “Building community one book at a time.”
Their all-time high for attendance was Garrison Keillor, who drew 1200 readers, and she presented me with their schedule for half the month of March that listed fourteen book signings! They often donate the proceeds from popular events, which they combine with drink and food specials from the cafe, to local causes too numerous to count. The create a lively space for readers with staff recommendations on the ends of the bookshelves. They stack used copies and remainders of the same title side by side, giving buyers the choice of how much they want to pay for a certain book.
It doesn’t stop there. Chuck and Dee also started a monthly variety show on a Fairhaven radio station, that includes radio comedy, a live interview with a guest author, music and jokes. They have organized writer’s groups including sci-fi, poetry, fiction and non-fiction and a variety of book reading groups, from ‘engaged citizens’ to ‘motherhood by the book’ that all take place in the large store, with a view of the water from the top floor.
They print books on demand with their own Espresso printing machine, and they also sell ebooks and Kobe readers for their large Canadian customer base. This store is just about the coolest bookstore I’ve ever set foot in….and they’re always open to new ideas and new ways to bring readers together. I think I’d spend a lot of time in here if I lived nearby.