Third Place Books managing partner Robert Sindelar possesses what might be the rarest talent in the United States today: He’s getting really good at opening new bookstores. Sindelar oversaw the creation and refinement of the gorgeous Ravenna branch of Third Place Books, which is an ideal neighborhood bookstore: not too big, not too small, and thriving at every hour of the day.
Sindelar’s at it again, this time in south Seattle: this Saturday, Third Place Books Seward Park is opening and, with its vaulted ceiling, copious natural light, and burnished-wood glow it’s a serious contender for the title of Seattle’s Most Beautiful Bookstore. TPB Seward Park will host Seattle-area authors signing books and offering recommendations throughout the weekend, including Maria Semple, Jonathan Evison, Tom Douglas, and Tim Egan.
In a tour of the new space, Sindelar demonstrates how much thought went into every little detail: you’re greeted with the new release tables, which are low enough to offer a commanding view of the whole store. If you walk the walls, you’ll pretty much follow the life cycle of a reader: first children’s picture books, then middle readers, then young adult books, then the adult fiction section, and then the used rare and collectible section.
In the back next to the used book buying counter is an elevated stage, where the store will host author readings. The bookshelves surrounding the stage are on wheels, to accommodate audiences of up to a hundred people. The store shares space with a restaurant called Raconteur, which is owned by Flying Squirrel Pizza Company founder Bill Coury; on the main floor it’s a cheery café, and in the basement is a bar and restaurant. Like the Ravenna store, TPB Seward Park is likely to be humming from early in the morning until late at night. The idea of a general-interest bookstore south of downtown seems beyond necessary; it’s kind of unbelievable that Elliott Bay Book Company was up until this week the southernmost general-interest independent bookstore in Seattle.
Third Place Books Seward Park manager Eric McDaniel tells me that TPB Seward Park will be staffed with eight full-time booksellers and two part-timers. Four of the staff are bookselling veterans with decades of experience between them and the rest are new to the business. McDaniel, a Seward Park resident, emphasizes that the store is located in one of the most interesting, diverse spots in town—some of the richest neighborhoods in Seattle and some of the poorest border the bookstore. He hopes to make the space welcoming to everyone using a variety of programs including book clubs (Seattle author Garth Stein, who lives in the neighborhood, will be hosting one) and community partnerships.
As Sindelar can attest, new bookstores really go through two phases of opening. First, there’s all the frantic shelving and planning that happens before the public is welcomed inside. Then, in the weeks and months after, the community shapes the store with its purchases and requests and the used books they bring to sell to the store. Everyone at TPB Seward Park is excited for that metamorphosis to begin.
Third Place Books Seward Park, 5041 Wilson Ave S, 366-3333, thirdplacebooks.com, 9 am, all ages, free.