Bailey/Coy Books, a mainstay of the Seattle bookstore scene, will close its doors at the end of November.
Bailey/Coy Books, a hub of Capitol Hill literary and community activity since its opening in 1982, will close its doors at the end of the month.
In an e-mail news release sent out Monday morning, owner Michael K. Wells — who bought the business from founder Barbara Bailey when she retired in 2003 — said the store has been struggling for the past decade.
He added, “The economic downturn of the past year, combined with the rapidly changing world of bookselling, has led us to believe that this is the most responsible decision.”
Monday afternoon, Wells said he has stayed in close touch with Bailey and that she thinks it’s the right thing to do. She is, he added, “a savvier businessperson than I am.”
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Bailey initially established a bookstore in Rainier Square in 1977. She and Michael Coy opened a second store on Broadway in 1982, which became Bailey/Coy Books the next year, with Coy as co-owner. (Michael Coy, also co-owner of the late, lamented M. Coy Books, is now manager at Ravenna Third Place Books.)
The vision behind the Broadway store was to have one place where you could buy both “The Joy of Cooking” and a copy of The Advocate, a gay and lesbian newsmagazine.
“There were gay bookstores,” Wells said. “There were mainstream bookstores. But they really didn’t mix. … Now every Barnes & Noble has a gay and lesbian section.
“In a sense, the gay and lesbian community is living in a broader world than they used to. They don’t feel tied specifically to gay and lesbian businesses when it comes to spending their dollars. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing or a negative thing. In a way it’s part of what we all fought for, for so long.”
But there was a downside for Bailey/Coy. “It used to be 30 percent of our business was out of the gay and lesbian section,” Wells said. “Now it’s less than 5.”
Bailey has been the store’s “landlord” since Wells bought it, and she’s been “incredibly gracious over the years,” he said, charging less than market rate. “None of this is about development. None of this about the changing nature of Capitol Hill. This is a simple equation of a retail model that can no longer sustain itself.”
Wells also said rumors of Elliott Bay Book Co. considering a move from Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill weren’t a factor in his decision to close.
“I actually think it would be great if they moved to Capitol Hill,” he said, “because Capitol Hill should have a fantastic bookstore.”
Most Bailey/Coy items are now marked down at a 20 percent discount. There will be a closing-night party: a “wake” to which all former staff members and customers are invited. There may also be an auctioning of some of the store’s memorabilia, including a pair of boxer shorts signed by humorist David Sedaris.
“We’re going to push the bookshelves back and raise a glass of Champagne, if I can afford it,” Wells says. “A bookstore means something in a community. It’s the soul, in a way. So people feel connected, and I want to give them a chance to mourn it and say goodbye.”
Michael Upchurch: firstname.lastname@example.org