Friday, January 12, 2007

Powell’s City of Books By: Lezah Williamson

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When we were in Portland, we went to Powell's City of Books - twice. On the same day. And even though we spent over three hours there, we only managed to see a fraction of what was to be had. And it turns out that Powell's now has expanded to seven stores. It's just short of being miraculous.

In case you've never been there (or heard of it), Powell's was started in Portland in 1971 as a used book store. It was so successful that it quickly expanded into an empty shop next door - they just knocked a hole in the wall. And then they expanded again, and again, and again, until the store literally took up a whole city block. By that time, Powell's was selling new books as well as used, and had the novel concept of putting the NEW books on the shelves with the OLD books. Amazing! Right there on the same shelf! Who'd a thunk somethin' like that would ever work? But work it does!

The store is a fascinating place, because it's like taking a trip to a foreign land. Different areas of the store are colour-coded based on the subjects being sold there (there's the Rose Room, and the Blue Room, etc.); there's a coffee shop that was absolutely packed to the gills the day I was there; and customers galore. It's not only a booklover's dream, but also a shop-owner's dream. I found a couple of great reads there, we bought some presents for friends , and Dave in particular found a new hard cover book on Dylan that retailed for over $60 in Canada - he paid just $17!

The original Powell's City of Books is within walking district of Portland's downtown core and Pioneer Square, at 1005 W. Burnside; there are additional Powell's stores at the following locations:

Powell's Technical Books, at 33 NW Park Avenue
Powell's Books at Cedar Hill's Crossing, 3415 SW Cedar Hills Bl., Beaverton
Powell's Books on Hawthorne, at 3723 SE Hawthorne
Powell's Books for Home and Garden, at 3747 SE Hawthorne
Powell's Books at PDX, at Suite 2250, 7000 NE Airport Way.

This is in addition to five warehouses and one of the world's most successful dot coms (

It's quite the place, and no visit to Portland can be complete without a stop at Powell's.

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