A children’s book author from Bainbridge Island purchased Liberty Bay Books. A month later, the pandemic struck


Neighborhood readings

Suzanne Selfors devoted herself seriously to her writing in 2002. Three years later, her first book was published. Over the next 15 years, Selfors wrote and published over 30 titles for young readers through a wide range of publishers.

“I am very happy to say that the children’s writing career has been very successful,” Selfors said over the phone. She has published best-selling and licensed books for the intermediate level with DreamWorks and Mattel, and her “Wedgie & Gizmo” series, about a superhero corgi and a shiny but devious guinea pig, has won awards by an ocean. to the other.

“I have to admit that about two years ago I was starting to feel really exhausted,” says Selfors. She had just published six books in a single year and she was looking to reduce her writing for a while.

“This was around the time that Suzanne Droppert,” then owner of Liberty Bay Books, the mainstay of Poulsbo, “put this little idea in my head to eventually buy her bookstore.”

Selfors, a fifth generation resident of Bainbridge Island, had long made Liberty Bay the home port of her literary career. Readers across the country ordered autographed copies of his books from the 43-year-old independent bookstore, and Droppert handled all of Selfors’ Skype visits to schools and children’s book clubs.

Droppert gave Selfors about a year to decide if she wanted to buy the store. Liberty Bay is an easy-to-love bookstore. Its cheerful yellow storefront and tall green spire are the heart of historic downtown Poulsbo, and it serves as both a year-round community center for the sleepy town and a destination for tourists in search of the latest best. summer sellers.

But Selfors wasn’t sure selling books was for her. She reached out to owners of local bookstores she has worked with over the years, including Village Books, Island Books, and Eagle Harbor Book Company, for meetings.

“And then I asked them to share their numbers with me, and they were all completely transparent,” Selfors says with some astonishment. “They were so welcoming, so willing to talk about the reality of what the numbers really look like – the things they liked and the things they didn’t like about owning bookstores.”

“I did due diligence,” says Selfors, “and there were a lot of red flags – trust me, a parcel – but I had thought about it for so long that it had become a reality in my brain. Selfors agreed to buy the shop and the two Suzannes agreed that Droppert would work one final Christmas season before retiring and handing over Liberty Bay to its new owner.

The store closed in January for some much needed renovations. Every old bookstore could use a new carpet and a fresh coat of paint, but Selfors also had to deal with “awesome” leaks and other major maintenance that was not done during the daily parade of the retail life.

When the store reopened on February 15 of this year, it retained the charm of Liberty Bay, but felt renewed and revitalized. “It was wonderful,” Selfors recalls. “All my friends showed up, we had all kinds of support from local writers, and it went really well.” Sales were very strong: “Our month of February was the best February the bookstore has ever seen.

But March 2020 has arrived, and with it the coronavirus pandemic. Out of concern for the health of its employees, Selfors closed Liberty Bay a week ahead of Governor Jay Inslee’s statewide stay-at-home mandate. “It was scary,” she admits. “And then it was also scary from a financial point of view. I had a lot of sleepless nights.

Since then, Selfors has continued to reinvent the Liberty Bay experience. She had to expand the shop’s anemic website so customers could order books online, and Selfors and her son became Liberty Bay’s delivery fleet. “We would drive around for hours and put these books on people’s doorsteps,” she recalls.

Community support for Liberty Bay was overwhelming. “Even though it was the most stressful thing I have ever experienced,” says Selfors, adding that she “found herself on high blood pressure medication for the first time in my life” during the lockdown, she is “so grateful to our customers, who not only helped us survive those first few months of COVID, but are now helping us buy books for Head Start, for women in prison and for local families in need” via the store website.

Now that restrictions have eased, Liberty Bay has reopened for the second time this year – this time with Plexiglas shielding and disinfectant to keep everyone safe – and Selfors and his team of four booksellers are learning how to sell books at a time of COVID. For Liberty Bay, like most independent booksellers, the holiday season will be vitally important and the support of the community will be crucial.

“None of us know what Christmas will be like,” says Selfors, “and this is the area where bookstores make the most money. “

If Selfors can lead Liberty Bay through the pandemic, she can host three successful big opening celebrations in two years. “One of the main reasons I bought this bookstore was that I wanted to have a place where I could celebrate with all of my friends,” she says. “I love events and I designed the entire space so that everything is on wheels. We can push anything back and we can accommodate a hundred people in the store for a wonderful celebration. “

The plan was always for Selfors to continue writing books while running the bookstore, but the first months of the pandemic made concentration nearly impossible. “Despite all the chaos, I’m finally writing again,” says Selfors. The headline? “I bought a bookstore, then all hell broke loose.” Because as we all know, truth is stranger than fiction.

What does Poulsbo read at Liberty Bay Books?

Selfors says she wouldn’t have purchased Liberty Bay Books unless Madison Duckworth, who has worked in the store for a decade, agreed to stay to provide a sense of continuity to the Poulsbo community. Duckworth “came up with the place and she held my hand for a lot of it,” says Selfors, shaping the store’s inventory and overseeing customer relationships.

“Poulsbo is a Scandinavian themed town, which is why many visitors come to our Nordic section,” says Selfors. She says “Nordic mythology“, Neil Gaiman’s modern tale of millennial tales of Thor, Odin and Loki,” is a big seller, as is any book by [Swedish author] Fredrik backman. “

Books about nature – especially the ocean, since Liberty Bay is right on the water’s edge – always do well, and “Sweetgrass braiding“, Indigenous scientist Robin Wall Kimmerer’s lavish exploration of the deep and mysterious relationship between flora and fauna, is” a consistent bestseller in our store. All I’m doing is rearranging this book, ”says Selfors.

“And in my favorite section, children’s graphic novels,” says Selfors, “one of our bestsellers is”Bug Boys‘by local author Laura Knetzger. The beautifully illustrated comic, about two beetle friends exploring the world together, captivated and inspired the children who were left stranded at home during the pandemic.


Grover Z. Barnes

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