Anyone Want to Buy a Bookstore? Seattle Mystery Bookshop Is Up For Sale

Pioneer Square foot traffic has hurt the store, but could you be the one to revive it?

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.

More in Arts & Culture

Kayla (Elsie Fisher) stays glued to her screens in ‘Eighth Grade.’ Photo by Linda Kallerus/A24
Embracing the Naturalistic Awkwardness of ‘Eighth Grade’

Writer/director Bo Burnham and star Elsie Fisher discuss making and living one of the year’s best films.

Illustration by Taylor Dow
Let It Linger

Between two eclipses, this is a week for rest.

The Midwestern tale of <em>Sweet Land</em> makes its West Coast premiere at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug
This Land Was Made for You and Me

Taproot’s ‘Sweet Land, the Musical’ doesn’t fully capture the mood of 1920s Minnesota farmland, but still manages to charm.

Golden Goal

On the Seventh Day takes an atypical sports movie approach while addressing immigrant issues.

Illustration by Taylor Dow
Meltdown and Remold

Pluto intensifies a solar eclipse in Cancer.

Young Feet and Old Steps

‘DANCE This’ connects young performers with their peers and their cultural traditions of movement.

Wimps isn’t trash. Photo by Kelly O
Wimps’ Renewable Punk Energy

The Seattle trio isn’t afraid to get dirty on its new album, ‘Garbage People.’

Pick List: Kacey Musgraves, ‘Sweet Land,’ Beatles Movies

The week’s best entertainment options.

‘The King’ explores the idea of Elvis as a symbol of America. Photo courtesy Oscilloscope Laboratories
‘The King’ of the U.S.A.

A new documentary on Elvis Presley tries to make the rock icon the embodiment of America.

Illustration by Taylor Dow
Pretty Burn

Trines sweeten the sky as Mars gets weirder and Chiron turns retrograde.