I used to live in Portland, Oregon. When book lovers think of that city, they inevitably think of Powell’s. No doubt about it, if you love books, Powell’s is Mecca. Not only can you find any new book there, but its shelves are full of used and rare out-of-print titles, too. Just discovered you love Dorothy B. Hughes? There’s a good chance Powell’s will have some other titles besides In a Lonely Place.
But when I was living on the east side of Portland, my first stop for books was usually a small store not too far from my house called Broadway Books.
The whole store is about as big as the cashier room at the big Powell’s, but the two women owners still managed to pack a whole world of books there. As you enter, there is (or was…but I’m assuming it’s still there!) a long table full of recent or recently reissued paperbacks and trade paperbacks. Every month or so I would be sitting at my desk and suddenly feel the lure of the table. I would be unable to resist going to see what new was on display, and usually a few of their offerings would end up in my hands. Broadway Books’s inventory is very selective–it has to be, given its limited shelf space–but what they didn’t have the employees were always happy to order. And the orders always came quickly.
Most of all, though, I loved to lurk in the back around the fiction and mystery section, perusing titles and listening to the interchanges between the employees and customers, hearing what old favorites were being recommended, and what new books were getting thumbs-up or down.
Not long after I discovered this little gem of a bookstore, the dreaded horror occurred: Barnes and Noble moved into a big storefront down the street. Doom loomed on the horizon, and every time I went into Broadway Books to buy something and get another notch punched on my bright pink frequent buyer card, I fretted over whether the store would last long enough for me to finish out my card and get my free book.
But the strangest thing happened. Not too long after it opened, Barnes and Noble closed its store on Broadway. By the time it surrendered, the store’s shiny newness had taken on an unloved and forlorn look. Why? It seemed that for once, the little guy had won. Yes, it can happen! Not too long afterwards, Barnes and Noble opened a larger store in the Lloyd Center not too far away, or as I overheard the owner of Broadway Books say later, “It moved to the mall, where it belonged.”