Washington Indies Mark Major Milestones

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Two well-known Washington state indies celebrate big anniversaries this month. Eagle Harbor Book Company and Vintage Books are looking back on their history while preparing for a vibrant future.

Eagle Harbor Book Company's 40th Birthday

Betty's Books opened in a 500-square-foot space on Bainbridge Island, Washington, in 1970. On February 27 the store -- which is now known as Eagle Harbor Book Company, and takes up nearly 10 times the space -- will celebrate its 40th anniversary.

Store owner Morley Horder is inviting local authors, former employees, and customers to visit the store on Saturday. They'll have a chance to pose for pictures, compete in a cakewalk, and share their Eagle Harbor memories.

Horder, who bought the store in 1997, is Eagle Harbor's sixth owner, and he sees himself as part of a chain of caretakers. "I'm keeping it going for the next owners," he said. "It's a responsibility to the community."

Horder is proud of Eagle Harbor's place in that community. Last year, he and several employees founded the Sustainable Business Network of Bainbridge Island, and he has seen his store's customers become "more outspoken" about shopping locally. "It's a wonderful thing," he said.

The store's staff is another point Horder is proud of. "I just love who I get to work with," he said.

One of those staff members is Mary Gleysteen, who has been at the store for 20 of its 40 years. "It's been pretty fun to see a generation of readers come through here," she said.

For the future, Horder wants to focus on the store's connections to its customers and technology. "Improving our website is really important," he said, as is a deeper understanding of customer buying habits.

Vintage Books Celebrates 35 Years

"It's still fun to come to work every day," Becky Milner said, 35 years after launching her home-based retail business. Today that business is called Vintage Books, and Milner is marking the store's anniversary in the Vancouver, Washington, building that has housed it since 1984.

Milner attributes the store's longevity to several factors, including "amazing customers" who are willing to go out of their way to shop at Vintage Books. The customers also trade in their old books in the store's used book department, adding to what Milner calls the "treasure hunting" aspect of her business: Between used-book trade-ins and new-book deliveries, there are always surprises on the shelves.

The "terrific people working with us" are another Vintage Books asset. Several members of Milner's family, including two of her children, are on the store's staff. Other employees have chosen a career in bookselling after working in industries ranging from art to airport security. "I think we all just love the books," Milner said.

With more than three decades of experience behind her, Milner isn't planning to take a break from bookselling any time soon. "I tell my husband I'm going to do it till I'm 95," she said. And that means staying on top of trends and opportunities, a familiar process for a store that has sold books over the Internet since 1994. At the moment, Milner is evaluating and improving the store's credit-card processing, using information she learned at this month's Winter Institute. --Sarah Rettger