In all of King County, there’s nothing quite like a summer vacation in downtown Vashon. Islanders restock their stores and keep up with local rumors at the weekly farmers market while new tourists from the ferry stock their snacks and barbecue supplies at the grocery store before heading to their rental cabins. Although it’s only a 20-minute boat ride from the bustling West Seattle, Vashon’s small, brooding pace feels far from downtown Seattle.
Two blocks down the street from the farmers’ market, after a four-way stop under the weight of the week’s biggest traffic flow, locals and vacationers alike congregate at Fashion Library. At the counter, an ordinary, overwhelmed woman asks for help finding graphic novels her grandchildren might love. In the children’s section, a family stocks activity books to keep the kids occupied in the afternoons.
When you think of an island library, your mind probably calls the kind of place that has scented candles and kitchy fridge magnets in stock more than books—a coral-colored tourist trap holding the latest paperback cheesecake. But since its founding in 2001, Fashion Bookstore has consistently gone above and beyond.
It’s not just a place for tourists to grab the latest thriller or romance novels – it’s a year-round literary hub for a community that loves to read. If you were to put together a Vashon bookstore in any Seattle neighborhood, it would be a welcome addition to the community—a bookstore with a strong personality, a deep mix of bestsellers and hidden gems, and a four-woman staff with over 50 years of bookselling experience. between them.
“Up until about four years ago, we were definitely busier in the summer, and the winter months after Christmas were really meager,” admits Nancy Katika, owner of Fashion Bookstore. But life on the island has changed, with an increasing number of residents embracing remote work and staying close to their homes throughout the year. Now, “It’s busy all year long for us, which is a blessing.”
Katika has always worked in the retail business, but when she started working at Vashon bookstore in 2004, she realized she was a natural bookseller. “It’s a nicer community than some other retailers,” she laughs. “People are always happy to get books, and they want to discuss them with you after reading them. You build a relationship with your customers.”
Katica became a business partner in 2007 and acquired sole proprietorship in 2013. The store has been slowly expanding throughout its existence, having recently added a huge mystery and sci-fi section at the back of the store.
The atmosphere at Vashon Bookshop is cheerful and quirky without being arrogant. Throughout the store, you’ll find handmade chalk signs and cheerful character embellishments like a skeleton hanging over the mystery department and a wall behind the sci-fi department covered in aluminum foil, lending the shelves a campy 1950s air. -fi movie.
At the front of the store, one complete bookshelf was handed over to local interest and Vashon authors, from local history and nature guides to cookbooks like “Our Table of Memories” to local writer Jean Davies Okimoto’s novel about old age and grief, “George Beasley’s Better Angel, To Vashon resident Shady Cosgrove’s memoir about his pilgrimage to Graceland, “I played Elvis.”
Vashon Bookshop started out primarily as a second-hand book store, but now offers a mix of new and gently used titles. Just by looking at the shelves, it is almost impossible to distinguish between new and used books. “The condition is really important to us,” says Katika, when they buy back books from customers. She explains that booksellers carefully examine each copy and reject books with damaged or stained pages—as well as any volumes in them, Katika pauses to pick the right word,” she explains.Unique aromatherapy; “
This used book component helps keep Fashion Library in tune with the island’s literary ecosystem. Locals bring paper bags full of recently read purchases to exchange for new books, and Katika credits the generous store credit program for building a deeper relationship with customers. “It’s a great way for us to see what the island is interested in and what people are actually reading,” she says.
Vashon Bookshop’s event calendar has been suspended during the pandemic, but Katika is keen to safely reopen the store for events. Maria Semple [‘Where’d You Go, Bernadette‘ novelist] She lives on the island part-time and was reading in our shop to a crowded house.” “That was, of course, amazing. And we have a wonderful group of poets on the island, and their readings are always very supportive – it’s very meaningful to me.”
In the coming months, Vashon Bookshop will also reopen the local book clubs and other writing groups that made the store a home before the pandemic. “One group of women used to meet every two weeks, and they all wrote their own diaries,” Katika says. “They would come and meet and talk about their past and write – it was a great group to listen to.”
Soon, the summer rush of tourists will wane, and in October the farmers’ market will go into hibernation. But Fashion Bookstore will still serve the community year-round, and Katika knows the community will come out for them. “They want to be able to have a library and other brick-and-mortar stores on their main street,” she says. “It’s a reading community, a community of people who want to support each other.”
What do Vashon Bookshop customers read?
Nancy Katika, owner of Fashion Bookstore, says Portland author Brian Doyle’s novel “Mink River” and the short story collection “One Long River of Song” proved to be a bestseller in her store. Doyle, who passed away in 2017, wrote fiction, non-fiction, and poetry that uniquely evoked the “mixture of hardship and kindness” that shapes the history of the Northwest. “He was just a very special person, and his work still resonates very much on the island,” Katika says.
While Vashon Bookshop customers are devoted fans of literature, the store also sells plenty of non-fiction books—particularly ones devoted to the natural world of the Pacific Northwest. “The island was really enjoying ‘Homewaters’ by David B. Williams,” Katika explains. “It’s all about the history and culture of Puget Sound,” and it has been hugely popular with clients since its publication last year.
Fashion resident Karen Cushman has written 10 children’s books, and her Newbery Honor-winning medium novel about a rebellious young woman in 13th century England, “Catherine, Cold Birdie,” was adapted into a film by Lena Dunham. It will be released this fall. Katika says this mod is already bringing a new wave of young readers to the perennial bestseller, and “we’re thrilled about it.”