As I said in my introductory Bookstore of the Month piece about Queen Anne Book Company, the store is relatively small when compared to some of Seattle’s other neighborhood bookstores, but its stock seems remarkably deep, as though it’s got the stock of a bookstore two to four times the size squeezed inside of it. It’s the kind of store that leaves you marveling at how much they do have, which is essential for a bookstore; those stores that leave you marveling at what they don’t carry do not tend to last that long.
This kind of breadth of inventory is a little bit like a sleight-of-hand trick: you draw people’s attention to what they want to see, by predicting their needs before they even walk in. It’s not the quantity of stock that’s important, but the quality; you don’t have to have every book ever published, so long as you have the books the customers want.
QABC bookseller Wendee Weiking confirms that their customers are often surprised by the store’s stock. She says that after “what a beautiful store,” the most common customer comment is some variation of surprise at the store’s stock, which Weiking paraphrases as “oh, my gosh, you do have this book! Wow, I kind of expected to have to order this, but I see you actually have it.” Owner Janis Segress deserves the lion’s share of the credit for this; she orders QABC’s stock. Weiking admires Segress’s ordering prowess: “that concept of matching a neighborhood’s tastes and peculiarities — I think there’s an art to that, right?”
But what about the books that customers don’t know that they want? Part of the genius of Queen Anne Book Company is its small back patio. On pleasant days, customers can take books out into the small open area behind the store, sit at some patio furniture, and read to their heart’s content. Of course, reading outside is the literary equivalent of an aphrodisiac; nothing will make you fall in love with a book faster than reading it in sunlight, with some wind on your cheek and a bird singing somewhere nearby. That back patio probably sells more books at Queen Anne Book Company than any blurb ever could.