Points of Sale is an occasional column that shares bookselling tips and ideas from booksellers for booksellers.
While many bookstores talk about serving their community, that mission is baked into the DNA of the decade-old reincarnation of Couth Buzzard Books in the Greenwood neighborhood in Seattle. The bookstore, which was 20 years old when it lost its lease and was forced to close in 2008, reopened a year later with a renewed commitment to community. It’s even part of the store’s tagline: “Building community—one cup, one book, one note at a time.”
“We knew we couldn’t survive on just books,” said owner Theo Dzielak, who managed the original Buzzard used bookstore. “We wanted [the revived store] to be a bookstore and a café. The final thing we decided was to have a community space to hold events. There aren’t a lot of small venues where people can meet.”
Dzielak, who plays the flute and hand percussion, set out to create a space where local artists of all ages could share their work. “We wanted to provide a need that hadn’t been met for musicians and poets. There are a lot of talented people [here],” he said. Rather than charge admission for performances, the Buzzard asks for donations.
The front two-thirds of the Buzzard’s 2,500-square-foot space is filled with new and used books as well as its Espresso Buono Café, which serves beer, wine, and espresso, along with pizza and homemade brownies. The back of the store, which typically accommodates 40 or more people, is where performances, language classes, and events are held. Most of the latter go well beyond traditional author readings, although the store holds those, too. Events range from a weekly community open mic for all ages to board game nights, music jams for all ages, and an annual jazz festival.
The Greenwood neighborhood where the store is located is home to a number of families, and children are encouraged to participate in open mic night. Some as young as 11 come regularly to read their poetry. Teenagers often attend to play their latest compositions for the guitar. The Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas, a nonprofit writing and communications center for kids, which is located a few blocks away, partners with the Buzzard for kids to read their writing at the store. In addition, for the past four or five years, the store has hosted a Girl Scout troop. For Dzielak, “it’s pretty inspiring to see them learning all these skills.” Plus he gets four free boxes of cookies.
After a decade of running a community-oriented bookstore, Dzielak said that it’s working. He may not be getting rich, but he’s paying the bills—and meeting a need for kids to have a safe place to learn and share their work.