Third Place Books managing partner Robert Sindelar possesses what might be the rarest talent in the United States today: He’s getting really good at opening new bookstores. Sindelar oversaw the creation and refinement of the gorgeous Ravenna branch of Third Place Books, which is an ideal neighborhood bookstore: not too big, not too small, and thriving every hour of the day.
Sindelar’s at it again, this time in south Seattle. This Saturday, Third Place Books Seward Park is opening and, with its vaulted ceiling, copious natural light, and burnished-wood glow, it’s a serious contender for the title of Seattle’s Most Beautiful Bookstore. TPB Seward Park will host Seattle-area authors signing books and offering recommendations throughout the weekend, including Maria Semple, Jonathan Evison, Tom Douglas, and Tim Egan.
In a tour of the new space, Sindelar demonstrates how much thought went into every little detail: You’re greeted with the new release tables, which are low enough to offer a commanding view of the whole store. If you walk the walls, you’ll pretty much follow the life cycle of a reader: first children’s picture books, then middle readers, then young-adult books, the adult fiction section, and the used, rare, and collectible section.
In the back next to the used-book buying counter is an elevated stage where the store will host author readings. The bookshelves surrounding the stage are on wheels to accommodate audiences of up to a hundred. The store shares space with a restaurant called Raconteur, which is owned by Flying Squirrel Pizza Company founder Bill Coury. Raconteur is really three restaurants in one: On the main floor it’s a cheery café, and in the basement, it’s a bar and restaurant. Like the Ravenna store, TPB Seward Park is likely to be humming from early in the morning until late at night. The idea of a general-interest bookstore south of downtown seems beyond necessary; it’s kind of unbelievable that Elliott Bay Book Company was until this week Seattle’s southernmost general-interest independent bookstore.
Manager Eric McDaniel tells me Third Place Books Seward Park will be staffed with eight full-time booksellers and two part-timers. Four of the staff are bookselling veterans with decades of experience among them; the rest are new to the business. McDaniel, a Seward Park resident, emphasizes that the store is located in one of the most interesting, diverse spots in town—some of Seattle’s richest neighborhoods and some of its poorest border the bookstore. He hopes to make the space welcoming to everyone through a variety of programs including book clubs (Seattle author Garth Stein, who lives in the neighborhood, will host one) and community partnerships.
As Sindelar can attest, new bookstores really go through two phases of opening. First, there’s all the frantic shelving and planning that happens before the public is welcomed inside. Then, in the weeks and months after, the community shapes the store with its purchases and requests and the used books they bring to sell. Everyone at TPB Seward Park is excited for that metamorphosis to begin. Third Place Books Seward Park, 5041 Wilson Ave. S., 366-3333, thirdplacebooks.com.
Paul Constant is the co-founder of The Seattle Review of Books. Read daily books coverage like this at seattlereviewofbooks.com.