Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Powell's City of Books - Portland, OR

Sign on one of the corners that this store occupies!

Gulp.  Ok, this place is huge.  It's megacraptastic!  I'm not exaggerating.  This place makes a Von Maur look like a phone booth (ok, that was an exaggeration but you get my point!).

I saw this book.  I don't know a thing about it.  It just seemed to fit for this store.  Sorry for the blur.   I shot the picture from three floors away.  Closest I could get.  

The only thing comparable to this that I've visited is The Strand in NYC.  To contrast with this check out The Muse in Deland, FL.  Calling The Muse and Powell's independent bookstores is like calling a chihuahua and St. Bernard dogs.  Totally different animals, so to speak.  There is so much to share about this indie that I won't possibly cover it all.  But here is a short list of what this indie has that most of the others do not:

  1. A map of the store.  I told you this place is big.
  2. Elevators.  Plural.  For the 4 levels.
  3. A $350,000 book.  Up on the 3rd floor of the rare book room, the journals of Lewis & Clark.  There are so few of these they are cataloged like the Fabergé eggs.  I decided to pass on this book.
  4. Socks and soap.  Not just greeting cards!
  5. 10 check-out cash registers.  7 in front and 3 at another counter.  Like the extended gates for extra horses at the Kentucky Derby.  
  6. Customers.  And lots of them.  And this was on a Monday morning.  I was physically bumping into people.
  7. A roped off maze for long lines of customers.
  8. A tourist out front who asked me to take his picture in front of the store.  I thought I was the only one who asked for pictures like that!
  9. A machine that will self-publish the book you've written.
  10. Rooms of books organized by colors.  Children's books?  Go to the rose room.  Photography?  Pearl room.  Mysteries?  Gold room.  Home construction?  Across the street in Building 2.  That's right, one ginormous building isn't big enough to hold all the books at Powell's so they have Building 2 across the street.  I didn't even get to that building. 
Of course, in addition there is a great cafe with wifi up on the 2nd floor.  And since this place is so huge, it goes without saying that the inventory is vast.  Lots of staff and the ones I talked to were great.  They have new and used books and a very visible book buy-back program.  This place is a destination.  

Typically, when I visit these indies I can identify and visit with the owner or maybe the manager.  Asking to do that here (which I did) would be like asking to visit with a president of a major corporation.  I was hoping to visit with a private, or maybe a sergeant.  Anyone who might be a rank above cashier who could sign My Bookstore to document my visit.  I met Seth ( manager of some sort!) who was great to talk to.  Even though this place was enormous, I was still able to talk about books with Seth and Lauren, one of the Powell's staffers.  The common bond of readers can be found in even the largest of indies and that's especially nice to know in a large indie like Powell's.

When you visit Powell's, don't rush.  You'll be overwhelmed but you will love it.  It's kind of like Disneyworld.  It will be tough to see everything but you'll have a blast trying it.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.   

JUST FINISHED: Inferno, Dan Brown.  When you finish this one it will REALLY make you think.  Creepy.  I've read all of Dan Brown's books and this one is good, but not my favorite.  But still worth it.  4 stars.

CURRENTLY READING: A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip, Kevin Brockmeier.  More on this one later.  

RECENTLY PURCHASED: Spud, John van de Ruit.  Mink River, Brian Doyle.  Angle of Repose, Wallace Stegner.  

This entrance under construction.

... and this is part of the reason for the construction.

Main entrance.

The pillar stack of books.  

View of main floor just upon entering.  This is only a small portion of the main floor.

Powell's sells new and used books.  

A great cafe for a latte and wifi up on the 2nd floor.  

If this sign doesn't help, grab a map.  This indie has maps of the store!

This great display is near the entrance on the main floor.  

Multiple cash registers for check-out.  

A long aisle of books.  Every floor, every room.  

Up these stairs to the 3rd floor to publish your book!

...and here's the machine that will do it for you.  

Seth, one of the managers here at Powell's.  He was great to talk to about the store!

Yours truly and Seth.  The journey continues.  

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