by Kirby LindsayLisa Perry is selling Ophelia’s Books, the used book store she opened at the center of the Center of the Universe 14 years ago. “Never fear,” she assured fans of the book (and feline) lover’s paradise, “the cats will still be here.”
Pursuit of a New Dream
Perry started the store as Twice Sold Tales – Fremont, under a franchise-like arrangement with the original TST on Captiol Hill. “I was just using the name,” she said, “and pooling resources for advertising.” After four years, she went entirely independent and changed the name to Ophelia’s, after the shop cat who ruled the store.
Prior to opening her store, Perry worked at the original TST for four years, although her calling to bookselling came naturally. Her mother and brother are librarians, and, “I’ve always been a big reader,” she admitted. Beyond surrounding her with books and fellow booklovers, the store is the place where she met her husband. Harold Perry came once with some friends, then came back to ask her out. Perry has enjoyed the store, and long thought she’d grow old there.
But the Southern California native has found her affection for Seattle weather dwindling, and “I knew that my husband was really missing the sunshine,” she explained. He grew up in Tennessee, and has lived in Tucson, Arizona. So when some friends relocated to San Francisco, they kept asking when the Perrys would be moving as well – and it got Lisa Perry thinking…
Another friend then introduced her to Jill Levine, and Perry knew it was time to go. Now she’ll give it all up – the house they’ve been remodeling, Harold’s job at Microsoft, and Ophelia’s – to try life elsewhere. When the house sells, they plan to take a camping trip for a month, or two, then give San Francisco a try – yet even that isn’t certain. She may continue selling books, or become a copy editor, but she and her husband both feel ready to play the future by ear.
The State of the Store
“Fourteen years is a long time in one gig,” she explained, “especially when you are doing 90% of the work.” As for bookselling, “it’s changed,” Perry acknowledged. Fewer bookstores exist, “but the people who prefer reading a physical book will continue to want real books.”
“It is hard to sell on-line as an independent bookstore,” she acknowledged, however Ophelia’s does sell through the Advanced Book Exchange and Amazon. About 20 to 30% of the total sales take place on-line, although the quantity varies – greatly – from one month to another.
She thinks changes in the Fremont business district, over 14 years, have made it a little harder for the business. “It’s a little more weighted towards bars and restaurants, and chichi boutiques,” she said, “so someone who lives here is not going to find what they need.” Perry admitted that she hasn’t spent much time hanging out here – “I don’t buy much in the way of new clothing, and I don’t go to bars,” – but she also said, “I’m going to miss having a neighborhood.”
Also, “I’m going to miss the balls-out arts community. I regret I never got involved in the parade,” she said, allowing that if their house doesn’t sell right away she may take the opportunity to do it this year.
Pursuit of Another Dream
On March 15, 2011, Jill Levine will officially begin her new life as a bookseller – in a store she has shopped for 14 years. “I have always wanted to have a bookstore,” she said, “and a used one, as well.”
Levine lives in Ballard, with her son and two cats, where she works as a bookkeeper. She will continue doing bookkeeping, from the store. “This will be more like my home,” she admitted. Her son is excited about the change, she allowed, in the stoic manner of seven-year-olds.
As for Ophelia’s, Levine doesn’t plan to make any changes, right away. “I want to step into Lisa’s shoes, and see how it goes,” she said, “and make sure it runs as it is, first.” She does have ideas about possibly selling some new books, and joining the First Friday Art Walk, for the future.
For now, she wants to get used to it all, and meet the customers. She’s already made friends with her new feline partners. Oliver and Claudia will continue to monitor and stalk through the store. Levine has also agreed to make room, temporarily, for Frankie, the Perrys’ house cat, until they settle down permanently. So never fear Fremont, one bookstore - and its cats - with our continued patronage, will remain available for our reading pleasure!
©2011 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.