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Giant Independent Bookstores

Powell'S Color-Coded Rooms and In-Store Maps Defy Big Chains

— January 26, 2009 — Business
If there’s a heaven, I’m hoping it’s just like Powell’s Books. Long before giant chain store booksellers like Barnes and Noble found their way to my part of the world, there was Powell’s City of Books. It’s an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon that boasts a million in-stock books. It’s also a multi-biblio-opportunity bookstore—new, used and out-of-print books are shelved together. There are currently six stores in the Portland Metro area; I love the big one on Burnside downtown.

The main store has undergone an extensive remodel, but it still occupies an entire city block and has nine color-coded rooms. (You should take the free map when you enter, if even just as a souvenir.) The in-store café with espresso bar will let you sit with a book you’re considering and read while sipping coffee.

I’m feeling the call of the place as I write. I’m up for the 80-mile one-way trip from my house just about any time, and I’m not alone. People schedule vacations around visiting Powell’s. They list it as one of the best things about Portland and lament its loss when they move away.

One of the first places I took my husband when we got married was Powell’s. He remarked, as we stood at the checkout, “The people are different here. They’re literate.” 

Yeah!  Ain’t it grand?