by Michael Sarko
– The Capitol Hill Times –
After a decade of serving the neighborhood with a steady supply of used but still useful reading material, Half Price Books in Capitol Hill is set to vacate its Belmont Avenue store on June 2. The official word from the regional leadership of the Half Price Books chain states that the Belmont location has been struggling to capture enough business and will not be renewing its lease, but that all of the company’s other stores in the city will continue to operate.
Nationally, Half Price Books has not been struggling any more than most national book retailers in a tough and changing economy. In fact, the company has been opening new stores all over the country. A location, the latest of 11 stores since 2010, launched its opening on Valentine’s Day on the campus of the University of Kentucky in Lexington. Anne Von Feldt, Western Regional Manager of Half Price Books, also recently told The Seattle Times that the company is currently hoping to expand elsewhere in the greater Puget Sound region. Contrary to the concerns of some frequent Half Price shoppers, the store in the University District is under no threat of closing at this time.
The past few years have seen some ups and downs for bookworms on the Hill. Horizon Books and Bailey Coy Books both closed in 2009, citing general economic trouble. At the same time, Spine and Crown Books struggled with location woes that convinced owner Kris Minta to uproot his store, only to plant it again just down the street on Pine. In 2010, legendary store and cafe Elliott Bay Books climbed the Hill to much fanfare, landing on 10th Avenue after nearly 40 years at two locations on Main Street in Pioneer Square.
As Half Price Books prepares to vacate the neighborhood, it leaves behind a crop of precious parking spaces in the store’s sizable lot. The 14,000 square foot plot of real estate has 45 dedicated parking stalls in addition to a small amount of street parking, a veritable treasure trove in the traditionally car-unfriendly climes of Capitol Hill.
Despite the tough business of used books, neighborhood fixture Twice Sold Tales is celebrating 25 years of (mostly) uninterrupted service. TST proprietor Jamie Lutton began selling books at the Broadway Market in 1988, then graduated to a dedicated location at Broadway and East John Street two years later. Construction of the Capitol Hill Light Rail Station forced Lutton to move to her store’s current home on Harvard Avenue. Despite the bogeyman of e-books, Twice Sold Tales is still going strong. In November of 2012, Lutton joined with another Capitol Hill staple, Bauhaus Coffee, to open a shared location in Ballard’s high-traffic neighborhood of Market Street and 20th Avenue Northwest.
The long lead-time to the closing of the Belmont Half Price Books comes with the wish to transfer the location’s current employees to other stores in the region. The nearest location is in the University District on Roosevelt Way, with others in Bellevue, Redmond, Tukwila, Everett and Lynnwood.