The residents of Queen Anne Hill--a densely populated, upscale neighborhood about five minutes from downtown Seattle--tend to be very supportive of independent businesses. So when Queen Anne Avenue Books, the only independent bookstore in the area, needed to move, it became a community affair.

First, the owner of the nearby El Diablo Coffee Co., a local independent coffee shop, approached Queen Anne co-owners Cindy Mitchell and Patti McCall about moving into El Diablo's building, built as part of the Seattle World's Fair in 1963. In the last five years, McCall told PW Daily, Queen Anne Avenue Books had expanded its community outreach, particularly with schools, and increased its events, even renting outside locations to hold them. "We knew we needed more space," she explained, but the site El Diablo proposed was too small. Fortunately the coffee shop owner convinced the landlord to build an addition to accommodate the bookstore.

So on January 18, aided by a small business loan, Mitchell and McCall moved their store down the block. They also got a lot of help from neighbors as well as an industry friend: independent book wholesaler Partners/West. "They called us and asked about borrowing library carts," said Gloria Genee, Partners' general manager. "I realized we had some larger carts (essentially metal bookshelves on wheels), that could store the books." The independent wholesaler was eager to help out an independent bookseller.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer sent a photographer along to capture the spectacle of book racks rolling down the block.

McCall told PW Daily that Partners' help was much appreciated. "I can't tell you how much they helped us with not only the carts but their time and energy," she said. Gavin Bechtold, a Partners employee who lives in the neighborhood, even showed up to hoist books during the move.

The new bookstore opened on January 21. In its 2,300-sq.-ft. location, Queen Anne was able to quadruple its children's section, adding more sidelines and create a dedicated events center. Moreover, with oak trim and halogen lights covered with colorful shades, the new store is getting rave reviews from customers. "When you walk in it's almost like a celebration," said McCall.

For its grand opening February 7 and 8, Queen Anne plans readings by a handful of "Local Treasures," including Timothy Egan, author of The Wine Maker's Daughter (Knopf); Jonathan Raban, whose latest novel, Waxwings (Pantheon), is set in the Queen Anne Hill neighborhood; the Fishmongers of the historic Pike Place Market who recently published Catch! A Fishmongers Guide to Greatness (Berrett-Koehler); and local TV clown J. P. Patches, author of J. P. Patches: Northwest Icon (Peanut Butter Press). Anyone who grew up in Seattle knows Patches.

Thinking back on their move, the owners said they feel "beyond lucky."

"The reason we're so successful," said McCall, "is that Cindy and I made it a primary goal to become involved in the community and the schools. I think that's what made the difference."

This article originally appeared in the January 28, 2004 issue of PW Daily for Booksellers. For more information about PW Daily, including a sample and subscription information, click here»