This just in: Browsers Bookshop, a bookseller in Olympia that dates to the 1930s, has a mezzanine floor.
If you didn’t notice it before, stop by the store and look up: You’ll see a cleaned-up mezzanine space and four skylights. Both have been part of the store for years, but subtle changes to the space have had a dramatic effect on the feel of the store, co-owner Andrea Griffith said, as well as its business.
Griffith, her husband, Telfer, and his parents, Chris and Melinda Griffith, bought the business nearly three years ago. They cleaned up the mezzanine floor, knocked out an upstairs wall and created a space for author events and writers groups. The change has the space feeling open and bright.
In fact, one of the main skylights was simply cleaned, and that had customers asking, “Is that new?”
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“I’m a librarian who always wanted to own a bookstore,” Andrea said, adding that her two daughters get to grow up there as well.
There have been other changes. The store previously was known as a destination for used books, but that didn’t necessarily sustain the business, so new titles have been added with a goal of making the store 50 percent new books and 50 percent used, she said.
That helped sales rise 45 percent this past Christmas over the same time in 2015, Andrea said.
The business also replaced its furnace with a more energy-efficient model and put in a new front door. Andrea said some customers struggled to open the old door.
So what’s popular these days at Browsers?
Pacific Northwest writers, such as Jim Lynch, as well as books about women or by women, such as feminist writer Roxane Gay, or the recent book by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The interest in women’s books may be the same interest that drove thousands into the streets for the recent Women’s March, Andrea said.
Andrea, by the way, is the fourth woman in the bookstore’s history to operate it.
“Olympia gets that you have to support small businesses,” she said, pointing out that the city is home to three bookstores: Browsers, Orca Books and Last Word Books.
“I love that this town can support the three of us,” Andrea said.
Owners: Andrea Griffith, husband Telfer, and his parents, Chris and Melinda Griffith.
Location: 107 Capitol Way N. Olympia.
Type of business: Bookseller, new and used.
Years in business: Browsers has been in downtown Olympia since 1935. The Griffiths bought the business and the building nearly three years ago.
Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays; 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sundays.
Online: browsersolympia.com. You also can find Browsers on Facebook and Instagram. Customers can buy books on the website or order them to be picked up at the store. That way they can pay in person and don’t have to pay for shipping, Andrea Griffith said.
Did you know? Andrea’s favorite authors: Jane Austen, George Eliot, E.B. White, Ann Patchett and Marilynne Robinson.