10,000 lights for the community

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

More books than many libraries are for sale
at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park

By Donna Hawkey
Photos by Jerry Pickard

Over 18 years ago, Third Place Books opened its doors to intentionally create a community around books. Lake Forest Park Town Center was revitalized and Third Place Books was a nucleus for the non-profit organization, Third Place Commons.

Today, “The Commons” hosts over 900 free events a year and oversees a vibrant Farmer’s Market. And while Third Place Books is a neighborhood bookstore treasure, its reputation has become especially known for that “third place” they have created in communities: everyone is welcome, and social and economic status is not a factor.

Everyone's favorite place - the reading nook

Recently I talked with Third Place Book Company managing partner and Lake Forest Park resident, Robert Sindelar. He was actually destined for theatre performance arts while in college in Coral Gables, Florida. But after working a part time job at Books 'n Books in Coral Gables, he began to really fall for books.

Robert looks back, “it was an amazing experience and getting a chance to work so closely with Mitchell Kaplan is something that definitely influenced my career, though I did not know it at the time.” Mitchell Kaplan has a worldwide reputation for helping to promote Hispanic literature and authors through his bookstore, Books 'n Books.

After college, Robert moved to Seattle and landed a job at Elliott Bay Book Company and continued to learn about independent bookselling. Third Place Books opened in 1998, right when he was trying to figure out what to do next with his career to take his love of bookselling to the next level and make it a long time career.

This way into the stacks from the food court.
Third Place Books shelves used books with new
so you have buying options.

Robert feels very lucky he had the unique opportunity to open a new store, and eventually became managing partner of the company, which now includes three Third Place Book stores in total. Sindelar also decided to settle into Lake Forest Park in 2001.

The first time Robert and his wife Patti drove up Perkins Lane, it was one of those magical days when the sun was creating rays between the mature 100 foot stands of Douglas Firs. All Robert and Patti saw were rows and rows of trees - no houses – but then suddenly a home appeared and they felt like they saw an adult size treehouse.

“When we finally arrived at the house for sale, Patti got out of the car and she grabbed my arm and said. “Did you hear that, there’s a creek across the street. 
"So that moment and the drive up was it, we were pretty much hooked, and bought the house,” Robert reflects. 

Patti and Robert now have two children and both attend Brookside Elementary. The Sindelar family shows its high regards for the Shoreline-LFP School District as involved PTA parents. Patti is also a volunteer art docent and a teacher and a book lover.

I asked Robert to tell me how Amazon, and other online services, have affected Third Place Books. 

First he told me that overall the book business is in a good state. E-books have not taken over the market like some predicted, although they have their place. And cookbooks have become a type of art book. The proliferation of internet recipe sites has actually spurred this cookbook revolution through its inherent competitive nature.

The children's section is extensive
and staff are very knowledgable

Children’s book publishing is still going strong and this is an area where Third Place Books’ staff really excels in the difficult search for just that right book for a child or a teen.

What’s not so great is the economic reality of being an independent bookstore.

This is a heartbreaking moment when Robert relates, that when he works at the information desk, 
“Easily a few times per hour, someone comes to the desk and asks for a book that we don’t have in stock. I tell them we can order it and it will be here for them in just one to two days. That’s the average time it takes to get any book in the store for a customer. 
"And then, right in front of me, they get out their cell phone, tell me they don’t want to bother me, and place the order through Amazon. 
"You multiply that moment times 20-30 a day and it really adds up. 
"Picture there are 10,000 lights over my book store. Each time someone comes here and instead of buying from the store,  orders online, or goes outside the community, a light slowly gets put out, and eventually that kind of thing could make all the lights go out.”

The Customer Service desk is by The Commons entrance
Mark Zimmerman is one of the staff who will be happy
to research and order a book for you to pick up at the store

So here is a challenge for all of you in Lake Forest Park and Shoreline - let’s show our gratitude to this business - and keep those 10,000 lights burning bright this holiday season and beyond for the health of our whole community. There really is no substitute for the presence of a vital community store like Third Place Books!

Check out counter handles books and the unique gifts from
the in-store gift shop.

Besides ordering online from Third Place Books, you can even phone in your order at 206-366-3333 and talk to a human, avoid shipping fees and enjoy Third Place Commons when you pick up your book.

Don’t forget, it only takes a day to order a book if they don’t have it and it’s absolutely no bother! 

Gift wrapping gratis.

Donna Hawkey is a 20-year resident of Lake Forest Park who remembers how many lights were out at the Town Center when she moved here, and gives thanks this holiday season for the many things we can sometimes take for granted, especially books and community!

If you have any other gratitude ideas or thoughts about the Lake Forest Park community, please contact Donna.


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