CHS-V interviews Bailey Coy owner Michael Wells

I sat down and talked with Michael Wells this morning about the closure of his bookstore, the future of the publishing industry, and the changes he’s seen in Capitol Hill in his 20 years with Bailey Coy.

Connection to Capitol Hill
Michael explains why Bailey Coy couldn’t have existed in any other neighborhood, and how being on Capitol Hill affected Bailey Coy.

Changes in the publishing industry
Michael discusses the changes in the publishing and bookselling industries, which he says started about 10 years ago with the arrival of big box bookstores, and

Why Bailey Coy is closing
Michael explains why Bailey Boy couldn’t hold on any longer, and responds to a CHS commenter that said he was stuck in the 80’s, agreeing that he should have done more to move into the online space.

Changes in the neighborhood
Michael discusses the changing retail climate of Broadway and Pike/Pine, impact of the redevelopment currently underway in North Broadway, and the growing sense of community in Capitol Hill.

History of Bailey Coy
Michael tells the story of how Bailey Coy came to find it’s home on Broadway, and how he ended up acquiring the store in 2003, after working there for 14 years.

Courtney Love
“Michael, there’s a 6 foot tall drag queen out here and I think she’s stealing books”

Elliot Bay Book Company
Michael explains why he hopes the rumors of Elliot Bay moving to Capitol Hill are true.

Pilot Books
Michaels thoughts on micro-independent bookstore Pilot Books, which recently opened near Bailey Coy, and where it fits into the future of bookselling.


Michael talks about his plans to hold a wake, to mark the end of Bailey Coy.


Subscribe and support CHS Contributors -- $1/$5/$10 per month

8 thoughts on “CHS-V interviews Bailey Coy owner Michael Wells

  1. I’m heartbroken by the closure of Bailey-Coy. It’s my favorite bookstore in town (sorry Elliot Bay). I appreciate hearing directly from Michael and will be sure to help him liquidate some stock this month.

  2. Very interesting, and well spoken (and edited) – great to hear all the summary points being made about what’s happening.

    I work with publishers now (frequently design websites for authors / books) and was a librarian in the 1990s during a time when many of my favorite bookstores (in the SF Bay Area) disappeared. It’s amazing that Michael Wells has kept the store going this long, given all that’s happened with book selling in the past decade that’s been unfavorable to independent booksellers.

  3. this was a touching and illuminating set of videos to watch – i want to give a big shout out to the folks behind this kind of reporting – neighborhood news doesn’t get any better.

    Bailey/Coy has been my favorite bookstore for many years and i am sad to see it go; I am also proud of them (Michael!) for retaining a strong sense of integrity about his business and his decisions. It’s inspiring.

  4. Certain kinds of businesses; bookstores, record stores, coffeeshops, bakeries, funky flea markets, cozy bars and cafes, are warm, welcoming destinations for a commercial zone in an urban residential neighborhhood. They anchor the street and encourage lingering and conversations and interaction. Other businesses are neutral; apparel, housewares, chain stores and restaurants, etc. (They are necessary and they are functional and they might even be beloved by a few and enjoyed by many, but they don’t usually inspire much passion by a majority of residents.)Some businesses are cold, (which isn’t necessarily bad); art galleries, high end retail with low inventories, starkly designed restaurants and clubs. They might be wonderful places to visit, shop, eat or drink in but the ambiance is not welcoming to all and is frequently intimidating. Then there are the businesses that are cold and negative even if they serve a useful function: banks, payday loan places, pawn shops, (most) porn stores, tanning salons, smoke shops, insurance and other kinds of onstreet office space. (They all serve a purpose but all have negative connotations to many people and are better off on side streets and not main thoroughfares.) When you start to lose this mix of businesses, or one category dominates or eliminates the rest, then the neighborhood suffers. Neighborhoods without a successful mix of businesses, (functional and frivolous; high, middle and low end; warm, neutral, cold) are unhealthy and dysfunctional and a detriment to the city as a whole. Unhealthy neighborhoods cease to be neighborhoods and become just another place to hang your hat until you can afford to move to a place that inspires you to call it home.

  5. I disagree with two businesses that you state are “cold and negative.” Banks and smoke shops. Given, it does depend on the individual branch/store, but the employees at my bank in the U District know me by name. They are so incredibly nice. And even though I no longer smoke, I can walk by any smoke shop that I frequented in Cap Hill, and the proprietor and I still wave at each other. When you become a regular customer, any business can be warm and welcoming.

  6. Few people actually like banks…they’re necessary but they are foreboding, corporate, cold. But, that doesn’t mean individuals can’t like the people who work there or even the bank itself if they think the bank is a “good” bank.

    And, most people don’t like smoking or smokers. A smoke shop might seem warm and inviting to a smoker, but to a non-smoker or anti-smoker it’s on a par with porn, guns and malt liquor. And in our current climate, most people are negative on smoking.

    There are always exceptions to a rule. Some people love chilly, anti-septic interior design with bright lights and clean surfaces while others find it an anathema. I see beauty and warmth in a dimly lit antique/junk store with the musty odors, cluttered aisles, dim lighting and curmudgeonly owner while others find it tacky, dirty and horrifying. Different strokes for different folks. What matters is, neighborhoods need a bit of both to be successful.