The top of Queen Anne, to me, often feels like an island. The rhythms are different up there than you’ll find down on the streets of Seattle. It’s quieter, a little calmer. Maybe that’s why Queen Anne Book Company, our May Bookstore of the Month, feels a little bit like an island bookstore: it’s small, but it’s incredibly well-stocked for a store of its size. Bookstores on islands have to have a phenomenal collection of books, because they can’t rely on luxuries like next-day shipping or conveniently located book distributors the way mainland bookstores do. They have to have stock for the long haul, and they have to be prepared for the possibility that the mainland might become inaccessible.
Maybe the reason Queen Anne Book Company most resembles an island bookstore, though, has to do with the store’s pedigree: it’s co-owned by Janis Segress, who worked for years at Bainbridge Island’s Queen Anne Book Company. Upon walking into the store you might think to yourself, “their selection looks excellent, but they can’t possibly have [name of book you love].” And then when you go to check, you see that they do, in fact, have the book you were so smug about moments before. It’s a large bookstore somehow folded inside a small-to-mid-size bookstore.
Queen Anne Book Company is the successor to Queen Anne Books, a store that occupied the same space for ten years. Three years ago Segress opened the store with longtime QAB customers Judy and Krijn de Jonge and four former QAB staffers. In the time since, the store has been creating its own traditions.
On Saturday, the store was thronged with customers for Independent Bookstore Day, and employees were rushing around trying to keep up with the rush. Kids entertained themselves in the children’s alcove in the rear of the store as parents collected around the big, beautiful desk that serves as the cash register, information hub, and heart of the building. Segress was welcoming regular customers and people who’d never visited the shop before with a huge smile and eager recommendations.
Every time I’ve visited Queen Anne Book Company, it’s always been this way: you walk in and you know exactly where to go — you gravitate toward the section that appeals most to you — that you need the most — at that moment. Kids instinctively head toward the kids section. The tall bearded man with an unruly gray beard wanders back to the history section. The mother of two beelines to the graphic novel section and checks to see what’s new. Every reader has their place out here on the island.