David welcomed me with a booming, melodic voice the second my foot crossed the threshold. He sings greetings to every visitor who enters Lion Heart Book Store. The space is crammed but tidy, with tables by the entrance and narrow spaces between the shelves. Laminated handwritten signs label the main sections, starting with children’s and YA books by the front door. As you move toward the back the signs take you to literature/poetry/plays and end in the $2 pocket mysteries section, always full of worn paperbacks. Racks of postcards, notebooks, and pocket poetry editions stand throughout the store, which has been tucked in the lower level of Pike Place Market since 1961. David is now the fifth caretaker of the store, having taken over in 2001 and renaming it, just as those before him did.
"And that’s what we are," he explains, "caretakers. We take care of people." This philosophy really manifested itself during my first visit to the shop as David reacted to what smelled like a gas leak. As customers sniffed the air and glanced around, he ran to switch off the lights in the emptying store, called maintenance, shook my hand, and thanked me by name in the dim front of the store, telling me to visit again soon.
Before taking on Lion Heart Book Store, David used to own a little store in Lake City that sold books and antiques. He stopped by the bookstore in Pike Place one day, then Mr. E’s Books, and talked to the owner about his need for a better location. He went back that night and signed the paperwork to take over the store. Besides caring for people, David cares immensely for the store and the Market that houses it. He shared another philosophy of his: “Instead of complaining about the problem, be the problem. Get involved to solve it.” It is because of this mindset that the community elected him to be on the Pike Place Market Preservation & Development Authority (PDA) council. With a caretaker that believes wealth comes from love, the store and its surroundings are undoubtedly in good hands.
Those who feel his energy brighten their day or simply appreciate Lion Heart Book Store as the highlight of their trip send David notes and cards. A heavy binder sits on the counter, filled with postcards from customers’ homes and travels. There are long notes and short ones; some thanking him for a recommendation and some just saying hello; some from Indonesia, Finland, Australia, Italy, and Mexico. With dreams and plans of travel, David experiences various parts of the world through his customers' thoughtfulness, which in turn reveal the special friendship he develops with his visitors.
On any given visit, David sits behind the counter telling jokes and personal tales. He exudes charisma and a genuine interest in his customers, asking where they’re from and recommending titles. His electric demeanor is peppered by moments of seriousness during which he imparts lines of wisdom left and right to anyone who might be listening. "What is the secret of the universe? Anyone? The secret is to make someone happyyy," he sings. "Wake up in the morning and make your parents happy."
Just a short visit to the store reveals how important the shop’s visitors are. An incredible number and variety of people wander in and out at any time of day, milling around as they discover new corners of the Market. Visitors range in ages and come from across the lake, across the country, and across the world — and every one is welcomed and cheerfully received.