James Crossely has been a bookseller in the Seattle region for years, at Mercer Island's Island Books. So when Phinney Books owner Tom Nissley announced this fall that Crossley would be managing Madison Books, his new bookstore in Madison Park, the news was greeted by the bookselling community with a great sigh of relief: they knew the store was in good hands.
It's taken a little longer than expected to open Madison Books thanks to a more intense-than-expected construction schedule. But last Monday, Crossley opened the store in a temporary, "pop-up" situation for the holiday season through Christmas Eve, and then on December 27th, 28th, and 29th. We talked to him about how it's been going.
First of all, what's your store's all-time bestselling book?
That's a good question. Right now It's probably a three-way tie between Becoming, Michelle Obama's memoir, Educated by Tara Westover, and Milkman by Anna Burns.
So I guess your clientele is really into one-word titles apparently.
Yes, and that's good to know.
How has running the shop been so far?
It's been great! We've had a really hospitable welcome — a lot of people coming in the store to buy books already ,and even more who just want to stick their heads in the door and say "welcome to the neighborhood."
We're so glad to have a great outpouring of warm wishes. And I've had some unexpected visitors from my bookselling career — people popping up from the past to check out the new operation, which has been great. There's been great support from the from the bookselling community. We got donated shelves from University Book Store. I got help from former coworkers in setting up the space. And also, the publisher reps have been great: they hand-delivered copies of books late in the evening, like, "hey, do you need more copies of this book? I could just bring them by at seven or eight." It's all reaffirmed my continuing belief that this is just a great literary community.
Did you ever visit the bookstore that was in the area years ago?
I did! I used to shop there a little bit. It was called Madison Park Books and it was in a funky triangular space across the street and just just west of us. It was a charming and interesting place. When the store closed, somebody who used to work there went to Island Books and I worked with her for a decade. I think of her a lot as I'm in here now.
Are there any sections that you think you're going to have to refocus on based on consumer demand so far?
I've already got a hint of it. I think I did a pretty good job figuring out what people are interested in, but they are maybe even more interested in the mystery section that I thought they might be. A couple local authors come in asked if we local authors will have a presence here, and of course they will.
Mostly though, I just get the sense that they're so happy to have have a bookstore back on this street.
Do you have a rough opening date in mind after you close the pop-up once the holidays are done?
It looks like right now the end of February or the beginning of March is when all the work will be done and we'll be able to reopen.
Great. This is really an opportunity for people who to come in and sort of help shape the store a little bit, isn't it?
Absolutely. One of the first things we did was hang some butcher paper on the wall and draw some virtual "shelves" with an invitation for people to fill them in with what they want to see — first of all what they want to get under the tree this year, but more importantly what they want to see on our shelves going forward.
And what are your hours right now?
On weekdays and Saturdays, ten to seven. On Sundays, twelve to five.
Okay. Is there anything else that you think that my readers should know about?
I would love them to know that the very first book that we sold was a copy of The Overstory, by Richard Powers, which is one of my favorite books this year. And our first special order has already been placed and arrived, and it was for The Beastie Boys Book. Being able to get those in people's hands was a good feeling. A great feeling.