Miranda, a black cat with white paws, slinks through the aisles at Main Street Books in Monroe, not minding customers as they come and go.
Emily Newman, owner of the cat and the bookstore, said her shop’s resident pet has a Shakespearean name. “Miranda is Prospero’s daughter in ‘The Tempest,’” she said.
That detail says plenty about Newman, 35, who bought Main Street Books in 2012. Two years before that, in 2010, previous owner Amanda Kleinert told The Herald, “I know it will take just the right person — or people — to come along and run the place.” By all appearances, Newman is that just-right person.
She practically grew up in the Woodinville Library, part of the King County Library System. Her mother, Darcy Newman, was a managing librarian there before her recent retirement. Emily came to the library every day after school. At the University of Washington, Newman majored in comparative literature, and after college she taught English in Japan.
Her store, which sells some new titles but mostly used books, has an artful touch. There are hand-painted murals. Labels tied to high wooden beams with ribbon describe what readers may be seeking — fiction, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, suspense thriller, western, local history and other genres. It’s a book browser’s dream, packed with familiar titles and hard-to-find surprises.
With Independent Bookstore Day coming Saturday, Main Street Books and other shops like it will be celebrated. They’ve survived in spite of COVID challenges, e-book readers, competition from Amazon and big-box retailers.
Mary Kay Sneeringer, co-owner of the Edmonds Bookshop, has been in the business 20 years. In all, the store has been in downtown Edmonds 49 years. The secret to that success, she said, “is that people in the area want us to stay here.”
“We were so frightened by the pandemic,” said Sneeringer, describing the shutdown of a year ago as “terrible, terrible” for the business she runs with her husband, David Brewster. “Then the phone started ringing and the online orders came in.”
Independent Bookstore Day was launched in Northern California in 2014 by writer and editor Samantha Schoech. By the next year, it had gone national. Celebrated globally on the last Saturday in April, it’s a day when stores offer rare or unique merchandise. There are virtual events and prizes. The not-for-profit American Booksellers Association is among the sponsors.
Main Street Books and the Edmonds Bookshop will take part with special offerings for sale, including signed editions and Baby Yoda “READ” onesies. The Edmonds shop will be part of the “10-10-10 Challenge,” with other Seattle-area bookstores. Book lovers are asked to make a purchase, in person or online, at 10 participating bookstores within 10 days, April 24-May 3. The prize is an Independent Bookstore Day tote bag.
At Newman’s Monroe shop, free selected audiobooks will be offered with $15 purchases Saturday through Monday, according to the store’s Facebook page. Bookstore lovers are encouraged to post literary selfies on social media.
As an avid book browser, buyer and reader, I miss bookstores that were once in downtown Everett, Port Gardner Bay Books and Pilchuck Books among them. On trips to my hometown of Spokane, I can’t pass up Auntie’s Bookstore, a bibliophile’s paradise.
I can count on one hand, with fingers left over, the number of times I’ve purchased a book on Amazon. I continue to mourn the closure of the University Book Store branch in Mill Creek’s Town Center. Everett has Half Price Books near Everett Mall, but as part of a Texas-based corporation it’s just not the same as Main Street Books or the Edmonds Bookshop.
In a Washington Post commentary published in The Herald a year ago, Missouri bookstore owner Alex George wrote that “bookshops should absolutely be deemed essential.” Personally, I’d say that’s true. Independent Bookstore Day is about supporting the ones that remain.
Those stores have found ways to support customers. During the pandemic, Sneeringer’s shop has offered curbside pickup, free local delivery in the Edmonds area and free domestic shipping. Newman sells lots of merchandise online, shipping new books directly to buyers. She uses Etsy to sell antique books.
Newman, who leases the storefront that houses Main Street Books, explained what she bought when she purchased her business: “the inventory, the fixtures, the name and the community goodwill.”
Julie Muhlstein: email@example.com
Independent Bookstore Day, to be celebrated Saturday, is observed annually the last Saturday in April. Information: www.indiebound.org/independent-bookstore-day
Authors are featured in online events. Information: www.indiebound.org/independent-bookstore-day/virtual-events
• Snohomish County’s independent bookstores include these (some are genre specific):
• Main Street Books, 110 E. Main St., Monroe
• Edmonds Bookshop, 111 Fifth Ave. S., Edmonds
• The Neverending Bookshop, 7530 Olympic View Drive, Edmonds
• 3rd Street Book Exchange, 1615 Third St., Marysville
• Wit’s End Bookstore, 1530 Grove St., Ste. A, Marysville
• Everett Comics, 2831 Wetmore Ave., Everett
• Vision Quest Bookstore & Wellness Center: 6915 Evergreen Way, Everett