It is hard to believe when you walk into the Eagle Harbor Book Company on Bainbridge Island, Washington, that it started out in 1969 as tiny 500 square foot store front with only enough room for a handful of titles and a great deal of determination. Since then, despite having moved to a larger space, adopted a new name, and changed hands a couple of times, the store has remained fiercely independent and indubitably local. Today the Eagle Harbor Book Company is a locally owned, independent bookstore with a hometown feel and world-class selection of books and gifts, located in the heart of Bainbridge Island’s downtown area.
The experience of going to Eagle Harbor Book Company really starts before even entering the store. This is because thanks to an active and well-established art community, a diverse cultural history, and an affluent (year-round) population, downtown Bainbridge Island is filled with a great selection of unique boutiques, specialty stores, and restaurants that, like the bookstore itself, are often housed in historic buildings and run with a pragmatic friendly sensibility that seems to be the hallmark of small towns.
Once you enter the store, it is hard to know where to look first: the open, yet cozy lay out of wooden bookcases, the original 100+ year old floor, the books, or even (I am surprised to say) the selection of international gift items that can be found throughout the store. The particular day we decided to visit, the decision was easy. Because of the extremely cold weather (for this area) and the hence the icy breeze that came in with us, our plan was to move as quickly as possible away from the door way and into the warm of the heart of the store. This decision brought us immediately in contact with the store’s excellent selection of books.
Eagle Harbor prides itself on being a champion of local authors. Throughout the store one can find dozens of titles penned by locals, as well as numerous reading groups dedicated not only to local authors, but books about the local area and issues important to or effecting Bainbridge Island and its residents. Likewise, a significant amount of digital real estate is dedicated to allowing visitors to Eagle Harbor’s web site to easily find local authors and their works.
However, I would be remiss give the impression that in the bookstore’s celebration of local authors that they were in any way limited in their selection only to titles penned on or about the island. I found the Eagle Harbor book selection to be diverse, interesting, smart, current, and even on occasion, wonderfully quirky. I found several selections from my ever-growing TBR (to be read) pile not only on the shelves but also among the titles being recommended by the store’s staff. Furthermore, much to my great delight, I also discovered a few as yet undiscovered gems that I quickly decided I simply could not live without, as did my husband.
Finally, I would like to say, on behalf of all the introverts out there looking for a bookstore where they can peruse the shelves without constantly being asked if they need assistance, if they are finding everything ok, or any of the other litany of questions we tend to be accosted with in chain bookstores, Eagle Harbor is a safe harbor for the introverted book shopper. Questions can be asked at the front desk, and a helpful staff member will do their best to help get you a suitable answer, but in only what I can describe as a quieter and gentler manner than most other stores. Further conversation was available, if desired, but so was amicable silence if it wasn’t.
We finished our visit by heading downstairs to the used book area of the store. Housed in what appears to have originally been basement space, the Eagle Harbor Used Book Annex, along with an antique store now form a sort of subterranean mall of previously owned treasures. Like the main bookstore above, the used book section is widely varied in its available titles, has excellent staff, and is housed in a character infused setting that is well lit, but does have a pretty low ceiling. Watch your head if you are over six feet tall. We didn’t find anything that struck our fancy on this particular day, but that is the luck of the draw with used bookstores, you never know what you are going to find. What we did find was delightful conversation ranging from books, and poetry to music, and that coming from someone as introverted and shy as myself is high praise indeed.
Eagle Harbor Book Company is a great store, housed in a historic and quirky old building, and filled with books and people who love to read them…and talk about them if you want to. It is definitely a great way to start, or end a visit to Bainbridge Island, and I hope you check it out if you ever have the opportunity.