Tuesday, June 26, 2007

10 Things I Love About Portland (OR) -#9

Powell's City of Books

Powells "is the largest independent used and new bookstore in the world". It probably won't surprise you to read that Powell's is in the Pearl District (albeit, right on the edge but in it none-the-less). A browser can lose a whole day in this store (or be lost for days) if they're not careful. Used books are mixed in with new books which is, I believe, as it should be. The Powell's story starts in 1971 in Chicago, with a $3000 loan made to Michael Powell, to open a bookstore. After working at the store for a summer, Michael's father Walter returned to Portland and opened up his own store. you can read the rest of the story on the Powell's website. Powell's is the only bookstore I know with an actual map (pdf), and it's a map you need if you're not familiar with the layout or you're not sure you know what you want.

Here are some factoids from their website:
  • 68,000 square feet packed with books
  • Powell's buys 3,000 used books over the counter every day (the sale of my used books to Powell's helped subsidize my move from the west coast to the east coast)
  • approximately 3,000 people walk in and buy something every day
  • another 3,000 people just browse and drink coffee (speaking of coffee*)
  • Powell's stocks 122 major subject areas and more than 3,500 subsections (note the map)
  • you'll find more than 1,000,000 volumes on their shelves
You can take a "virtual" tour of the store on their site.

*When I returned to Portland, I was sad to hear that Starbucks had purchased Coffee People. Though you can still find some outlets scattered around. Coffee People used to be the coffee shop in Powell's (if I'm remembering correctly). I was happy to see that the shop in the store had not been replaced with a Starbucks, but with a World Cup. World Cup is an old favorite of mine from my days in Portland. Their home store is right across the street from the NW Portland International Hostel, where I used to work. I used to drink their coffee every morning (and make it in the hostel coffee bar).

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