When real estate developer Ron Sher first opened Third Place Books (in Lake Forest Park) back in 1998, the idea was simple enough: that having a new and used bookshop, a coffee shop, a café, and other amenities all open at once would enhance the experience and better ensure success. It would also, if successful, create a “third place” (separate from home and work) for members of the community to come together, and in turn enrich the community. Today, nearly twenty years later, with three locations around the Seattle area, Third Place Books has secured its place as one of the major players among the area’s independent bookstores.
However, when I first decided to visit Third Place Books’ Ravenna location I didn’t know any of this. In fact, the only things I did know, was that the store was one of three locations in the Seattle area and that they had previously hosted one of my favorite authors (Deborah Harkness) in their Lake Forest Park location (which I have yet to visit). And for me, this was enough.
Upon arriving, I was first struck by the collegiate feeling of the place. From the outside the brick building (that also houses ViOS Café, and The Pub at Third Place), looks like something right out of the quintessential college town. It is an older building, with character, but has aged well, and has moved with the times. Kind of like a hip older Aunt who could just as easily be having a water balloon fight with your children as she could attend, and follow, Shakespeare in the Park. Inside the collegiate feeling continued, not because it was filled with textbooks, but rather because of its excellent use of space, warm wooden décor, and copious amounts of books.
Like the physical store itself, the selection is bigger, and probably more widely varied, than one might expect from the physical size of the store. But as they say, good things come in small packages. Along the shelves, thousands of new and used volumes, both popular and obscure, coexist seamlessly side-by-side. This was most notable in the Biography section; which I must say was rather impressive. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to call out the children’s area, which is nestled into an almost hidden creative and whimsical corner, just for them.