Seattle Mystery Bookshop, the mystery-centric bookstore that has held down a storefront on Cherry Street in Pioneer Square for decades, is for sale as of today. You may recall that Seattle Mystery Bookshop ran a GoFundMe in January of last year. In a note on the store’s blog, owner J.B. Dickey says that successful fundraiser “bought us a year – but barely, and that has taken its toll.” He says another fundraiser would continue an unsustainable business model.
I visited the store recently and talked with booksellers Fran and Amber about the news. They confirmed that if it doesn’t find a buyer, the store will at least be open through the end of August and early September. “Judy [J.A.] Jance is scheduled for a reading in September, and we’re not going to miss that,” Fran told me.
Why is the store on the market? The booksellers confirm to me that sales are down, but they believe it’s because Pioneer Square foot traffic, in general, is on the decline. Without Elliott Bay Book Company to anchor the satellite bookstores, bookish tourists don’t visit Pioneer Square anymore. Additionally, the city has failed to support the neighborhood, and the uncertainty surrounding the soon-to-be-demolished Alaskan Way Viaduct looms over local businesses.
Fran and Amber both firmly believe the bookstore would be successful if it moved to a more active, vibrant neighborhood with foot traffic — somewhere like Queen Anne or Fremont. An enthusiastic young owner who loves books would likely do very well by combining the store with a cafe and creating a Seattle Mystery Bookshop for Seattle as it is now — something like a crime-minded version of Ada’s Technical Books.
Interested buyers, if they purchase the store, would receive the store’s stock, access to a staff with more than a half-century collective bookselling experience, and the goodwill of a tight-knit community of loyal mystery authors. The shop has hosted hundreds, if not thousands, of mystery authors over the years, and some of them travel to Seattle Mystery Bookshop on their own dime to launch their latest books into the world.
You should let prospective buyers know about this incredible deal. And in the meantime, Seattle Mystery Bookshop is throwing a sale for the rest of the month. Visit their site for more details, and stop by to show your support. Paul Constant is co-founder of The Seattle Review of Books. Read books coverage at seattlereviewofbooks.com.