As COVID keeps many bookstores closed or operating on a skeleton crew we want to shine a light on these wonderful independent bookstores and remind you that small businesses can use your patronage and support!
This week we are looking at Powell’s Bookstore, billed as the largest independent bookstore. Located in Portland Oregon it opened its doors back in 1971. It now has five stores and boasts an inventory that exceeds two million books!
From the Powell’s website here is a bit of its history:
Powell’s roots began in Chicago, where Michael Powell, as a University of Chicago graduate student, opened his first bookstore in 1970. Encouraged by friends and professors, including novelist Saul Bellow, Michael borrowed $3,000 to assume a lease on a bookstore. The venture proved so successful that he managed to repay the loan within two months.
Michael’s dad, Walter Powell, a retired painting contractor, worked one summer with Michael in the Chicago store. He so enjoyed his experience that upon returning to Portland he opened his own used bookstore.
Walter swamped his original location by buying every marketable used book that came through the door, finally pushing the whole operation into a former car dealership on Northwest Burnside. The building has undergone many transformations, but if you look closely, you can still see evidence of its automotive past.
In 1979, Michael joined Walter in Portland, creating a bookstore with a unique recipe that, though viewed as unorthodox, worked: used and new, hardcover and paperback, all on the same shelf; open 365 days a year; and staffed by knowledgeable and dedicated booklovers.
Four decades later, Powell’s Books is a cornerstone of the community and continues to operate as a third-generation family-owned business with Emily Powell at the helm.
Says Emily: “My grandfather taught me that our job is to connect the writer’s voice with the reader’s ear and not let our egos get in between. My father taught me not only the love of the book itself but also how to love the business of bookselling.”
You can shop Powell’s online and we hope that you do!