Long before Linda Dewberry opened her own business, she worked in banking in the Bay Area, rising within the company before being downsized from that bank and then another.
It was then that Dewberry finally pursued something she had always enjoyed — reading mysteries — but had always viewed it as a hobby and not as a business.
That’s when she visited a friend, who pointed her in the direction of a store that strictly sold mysteries. From there, Dewberry began her own investigation, spending a year researching her idea for a business, including volunteering at a bookstore to learn the ins and outs of how it would all work.
The Bay Area was already home to three mystery bookstores, so family ties brought her to Washington state and then a friend urged her to come to Olympia, she said.
Dewberry first opened Whodunit? Books on Fourth Avenue at Franklin Street, then moved five years later to Fifth Avenue.
The business will celebrate 13 years on Sept. 1, she said.
Dewberry, 66, said running a bookstore is not a lucrative business, but it does allow her to visit with customers and answer all their questions about a book they’re looking for or might like to read. “That’s the part that is fun,” she said.
Dewberry got hooked on mysteries watching “Perry Mason” on TV, she said, saying that her father could always figure out who the bad guy was. That led her to author Erle Stanley Gardner, the creator of the Perry Mason character, and then she moved on to Agatha Christie and soon was bringing home an armful of mysteries from the local library.
After all this reading, one might think that Dewberry should try her hand at writing her own mystery novel, but she said she’s never been good at keeping a secret.
“I never thought of being a mystery writer because they have to keep so much under wraps,” she said.
Longtime customer and voracious mystery book reader Ann Essko of Olympia, who was in the store recently buying a gift certificate, said she loves to take advantage of Dewberry’s expertise.
“She will unfailingly find me a great mystery to read,” Essko said.
Location: 119 Fifth Ave. S.E., Olympia
Owner: Linda Dewberry
Years in business: 13
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Volunteers: About 10 to 15 help Linda with the store.
Dewberry’s favorite mystery author: Elizabeth George, an American who writes mysteries set in Britain.
Dewberry’s five must-read mysteries before you die: “Folly,” by Laurie King; “Forgotten Garden,” by Kate Morton; “The Black Echo,” by Michael Connelly; “The Beautiful Mystery,” by Louise Penny; and “The Coroner’s Lunch,” by Colin Cotterill. Common to all these books is that they touched her emotionally, Dewberry said.
Did you know? Dewberry grew up watching and became a fan of “Perry Mason” and the author Erle Stanley Gardner. Before opening a bookstore devoted to mysteries, she worked in banking for nearly 30 years.
Advice to business owners: Do your homework, do something you’re passionate about and try to do it without borrowing money.
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 email@example.com