by Walter & Maggie Carr
In its humble origins forty years ago, Elliott Bay Book Company opened for business in a fledgling historic district of Pioneer Square which was a collection of restaurants, galleries, craft artisans and small owner-operated enterprises. Inspired by some of the most impressive independent personal bookstores in the West (Kepler’s, Cody’s, City Lights, Chinook Bookshop), one owner with one full-time bookseller in one room with a sparse collection of titles started to practice the tradition of personal bookselling.
We engendered a growing crowd of fans who appreciated the selection of volumes spread over cedar bookshelves on many levels and the ready knowledge of a staff prepared to offer books which satisfy. We benefited from a growing audience over our first decades which enabled several sizable expansions to become one of the most complete book collections in the country. But the core essence of Elliott Bay has always been an impressive group of dedicated, professional booksellers.
One young reader was attracted to the store before we even opened our doors. While still in college, Rick Simonson joined Elliott Bay Books, then slowly developed his own unique career by originating and directing arguably the most active author readings series in the nation. He sets a stage for authors not only at the store but numerous other sides around our region—helping bolster the outreach for many cultural, artistic and social organizations. Thousands of authors have been hosted by Rick’s dedicated energy and vision, and his extensive knowledge of books and authors is widely praised.
The impressive crew of booksellers at the store have been managed most ably by Tracy Taylor for a couple of decades now. Peter Aaron became owner of Elliott Bay after falling in love with the place 14 years ago. He brought a deep insight into poetry along with an experienced management sense, and he was able to engineer that exciting move of the store to 10th Avenue in the vibrant Capitol Hill neighborhood three years ago. Easily a dozen great booksellers from our own era continue to work at the store.
Our pride continually grows having been the “founders.” We encounter smiles and unbridled enthusiasm from those who learn we had responsibility for starting this great bookstore, this Seattle “institution.” That the bookstore continues to deliver the best personal bookstore experience for the world of readers gives us enormous hope for the future of books and reading.