On my second visit to Lion Heart Book Store, I overheard David entertaining a small audience with a story involving a large caterpillar on an expensive rug. Like with many customers, he remembered me and greeted me by name. Lion Heart Book Store is full of stories, but not only from David’s life and the books that surround him. Visitors seem eager to share their own stories: they tell him about their book collections, their jobs, their favorite novels, their pipe dreams. He listens, he jokes, he relates, but more importantly he shows he cares. He reads people so well he seems psychic (“My mother says I have psychotic powers,” he jokes in his singsong voice) — correctly guessing my dad’s profession and that a woman in the store hailed from Michigan. Love and people are two incredibly important things for this animated shop caretaker, so it only makes sense that my request for a memorable customer story elicited two in-store proposal tales. The stories received several “awwws" from the browsing visitors, punctuated by David’s sung punchline: “If I can’t find love, at least I can help others!”
In front of the cash register leans a small whiteboard titled, “Before I Die I Want To…” Visitors use the marker on the counter and write out their goals and aspirations. Once, a man wrote he wanted to marry and grow old with his girlfriend — writing her name on the board — and wandered between the rows of books. She came up to the counter, saw the whiteboard, and looked at David, who simply nodded. And the two were engaged. The second story takes place in a corner of the store, when a man taped a ring to the inside of a book and proposed.
This tiny whiteboard is but one of several aspects in Lion Heart that show how important customers are and makes an effort to include them, turning every person into an involved visitor rather than a passive browser. The bulky binder of postcards is another testimony, as is David’s attentiveness when finding books for people. He takes everything into consideration when recommending titles. For me, he browsed the shelves, musing, “I’m trying to think of something you’ll like but is different. This one is too heavy for your travels.” Impressed by his thoughtfulness, I soon saw each person receives the same unique attention. He seems to know every last book in his shop, adopting the role of matchmaker and marrying customers with novels. It’s evident this is an important task for him as he looks over spines and covers, singing, “Once you find the right book you will flyyyyyy like a biiiiiiird.”
It is the love for people that places Lion Heart Book Store on the same level as the other shops he respects and admires. Being a part of the Pike Place Market scene allows for unique experiences that other stores aren’t as fortunate to have. Some stories involve following bloody footprints to the bathroom, but to David, being in the market means being surrounded by families and owners who pour their heart into their stores and what they do: it’s not a corporate atmosphere where the face behind a storefront changes daily. Naturally, books are the essence of a bookstore, but in the words of Lion Heart’s amazing owner, “Can you imagine a bookstore without people?”